Two Valley stalwarts form a new company to provide “telecom silicon”

  • Synopsys and Juniper Networks joint venture will produce first “laser-on-a-chip” open silicon photonics platform
  • Solution not just for telecoms but also AI, datacoms, and high-speed and optical computing
  • A disruptive and potentially game-changing development
  • Name of new Silicon Valley company not revealed but Juniper and Synopsys unlikely to be on the list

In an interesting, disruptive and potentially game-changing move, Synopsys Inc and Juniper Networks are creating a new company to provide “telecom silicon”. It will deliver a “laser-on-a-chip” open silicon photonic platform for the telecoms industry and also for datacoms, healthcare, high-performance computing (HPC), LiDAR (“Light Detection and Ranging) and optical computing operations.

The new company doesn’t have a name yet, but the joint venture will be majority-owned by Synopsys and the new platform will include integrated lasers, optical amplifiers and a suite of other photonics components to provide a complete solution to enable a greatly improved level of integration of comparatively low-cost PICs (photonic integrated circuits) that don’t consume a lot of power but are nonetheless high-performance devices.

Hitherto, the cost of integrating discrete lasers onto photonic microprocessors has been a major impediment to their widespread availability and adoption but, as demand for ever more high bandwidth, high data transfer capabilities in telecoms and computing continues to rise, the search is on for “telecom silicon” that can be manufactured at scale, quickly and cost-effectively. It’s a complex process but the rewards for the winners will be substantial, to say the least.

Basically, the new enterprise comprises Juniper’s integrated photonics assets (the company owns over 200 patents in that discipline and in process integration) in combination with Synopsys’ history and expertise, in a unified electronic photonic design automation process that will enable companies quickly and cost-effectively move over to integrated lasers and, by so doing, it could revolutionise the optical computing industry.

In fact, Juniper has, as part of the new company, been working quietly with Tower Semiconductor to help develop Tower’s PH18DA process technology that enables the industry’s first laser-on-a-chip open silicon platform. The aim has been to show the practical proficiency of the new platform and stimulate potential customers to adopt the technology. To that end, ‘newco’ has developed the 400G and 800G photonics referenced designs with integrated lasers and the first run of the fabrication, which will provide samples for testing and evaluation, will take place in July.

The PH18DA process bonds indium phosphide (InP) directly on to the silicon chip. InP is a binary semiconductor comprising indium and phosphorus and, thanks to its superior electron velocity, the material is ideal for use in high-frequency and high-power electronics. Unlike many other semiconductors, it has a direct bandgap and can thus emit light very efficiently because an electron can fall directly from the conduction band to the valence band with no effect on its momentum and thus is able to directly emit a photon – hence its value in optoelectronics devices such as laser diodes.

Sassine Ghazi, the president and chief operating officer at Synopsys, which is headquartered in Mountain View in Silicon Valley, California, commented: “Silicon photonics is a rapidly growing market that is transforming many industries and creating exciting opportunities for new applications in the future. The new company’s open silicon photonics platform, combined with Synopsys’ existing investment in a unified electronic photonic design automation solution will help reshape the optical computing industry, enabling companies to cost-effectively shift to integrated lasers and significantly accelerate development of photonic IC designs.”

Rami Rahim, the CEO of Juniper Networks, whose head office in Sunnyvale is just down the road from Synopsys in Mountain View, said: “This revolutionary technology will change the economics of how people are going to build photonic systems. We have been strong supporters of integrated silicon photonics and we believe the new company will drive development of these systems by using an advanced open platform that will dramatically reduce costs and increase the performance and reliability of designs across multiple use cases.”

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