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Smart Memory Controller Takes Aim at the Data Center

Article-Smart Memory Controller Takes Aim at the Data Center

Image courtesy of Microchip microchipdatacenter.jpg
Microchip's SMC 2000 external memory controller uses the CXL interface to link DDR4 or DDR5 memory, enabling processing-intensive applications to improve memory utilization and optimize workloads.
CXL interface allows controller to link DR4, DDR5 memory to bolster memory utilization and optimize application workloads.

As artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), cloud computing, and data analytics take on a greater role, traditional processors are starting to see the limits of processing efficiency from their traditional parallel attached memory. Microchip Technology Inc. is trying to address this issue with its serial-attached memory controller portfolio, the latest product being the SMC 2000 series of Compute Express Link (CXL) based Smart Memory Controllers.

These controllers enable CPUs, GPUs and SoCs to utilize CXL interfaces to connect either DDR4 or DDR5 memory. This solution delivers more memory bandwidth per core, more memory capacity per core, and lowers the overall total cost of ownership in the data center by allowing modern CPUs to optimize application workloads.

The low-latency SMC 2000 16x32G and SMC 2000 8x32G memory controllers are designed to CXL 1.1 and CXL 2.0 specifications, DDR4 and DDR5 JEDEC standards and support PCIe® 5.0 specification speeds. The SMC 2000 16x32G provides 16 memory lanes operating at 32 GT/s and supports two channels of DDR4-3200 or DDR5-4800, significantly reducing the required number of host CPU or SoC pins per memory channel. 

Typical CXL attached memory modules include 512 GB of memory or more, providing an effective mechanism to increase the memory bandwidth available to processing cores. This paradigm shift provides data center operators the ability to deploy a broader range of ratios for memory to CPU cores depending on their actual application needs, thus improving memory utilization and lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)

Through CXL connectivity, the SMC 2000 external memory controller enables a CPU or SoC to utilize a broad set of media types with different cost, power, and performance metrics, without having to integrate a unique memory controller for each different type. For example, using an SMC 2000 controller with DDR-4 memory, advanced CPUs that only directly support DDR5 can now also re-use DDR-4 memory expansion. The dual signature authentication and Trusted Platform support, secure debug, and secure firmware update ensure the SMC 2000 CXL-based controller family also meets all critical storage and enterprise application security needs. 

To support customers in building leading-edge systems that comply with the CXL standard, the SMC 2000 comes with design-in collateral and the ChipLink diagnostic tool that provides extensive debug, diagnostics, configuration and analysis tools with an intuitive GUI.

The SMC 2000 16x32G is sampling to select customers in the current quarter.

Spencer Chin is a Senior Editor for Design News covering the electronics beat. He has many years of experience covering developments in components, semiconductors, subsystems, power, and other facets of electronics from both a business/supply-chain and technology perspective. He can be reached at [email protected].

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