12 April 2022
Synopsys and Juniper forming firm to offer ‘laser-on-a-chip’ open silicon photonics platform
Synopsys Inc of Mountain View, CA, USA ― which provides electronic design automation (EDA) software, semiconductor IP and services for chip and electronic system design ― and optical network provider Juniper Networks Inc of Sunnyvale, CA, USA have closed a transaction to form a new, separate company that will provide an open silicon photonics platform to address the growing photonic requirements in applications such as telecom, datacom, light detection & ranging (LiDAR), healthcare, high-performance computing (HPC), artificial intelligence (AI), and optical computing.
The new firm’s open silicon photonics platform will include integrated lasers, optical amplifiers, and a full suite of photonic components to form a complete solution that will be accessible through a process design kit (PDK). It is expected that the platform will enable a new level of integration at an unmatched price point, with the lowest power consumption for high-performance photonic integrated circuits (PICs).
The new company will be jointly owned by Synopsys and Juniper, with Synopsys as the majority owner. Its results will be consolidated into Synopsys financials. While Synopsys expects the investment to be slightly dilutive to fiscal 2022 earnings, the investment is not material and will not affect its fiscal second-quarter and full-year 2022 guidance ranges provided on 16 February. There is no change to Juniper's full year financial outlook.
The new firm is being formed, in part, from the carve-out of integrated silicon photonics assets from Juniper, which includes more than 200 patents on photonic device design and process integration. While part of Juniper, the new company has closely collaborated with Tower Semiconductor to develop and qualify Tower Semiconductor’s PH18DA process technology to enable what is reckoned to be the industry’s first ‘laser-on-a-chip’ open silicon photonics platform. To demonstrate capabilities of this platform and accelerate customer adoption of the technology, the new firm has created 400G and 800G photonics reference designs with integrated lasers, and expects first samples to be available this summer.
“Silicon photonics is a rapidly growing market that is transforming many industries and creating exciting opportunities for new applications in the future,” says Sassine Ghazi, president & chief operating officer at Synopsys. “The new company's open silicon photonics platform, combined with Synopsys’ existing investment in a unified electronic photonic design automation solution consisting of OptoCompiler, OptSim, PrimeSim, Photonic Device Compiler and IC Validator products, will help reshape the optical computing industry, enabling companies to cost-effectively shift to integrated lasers and significantly accelerate development of photonic IC designs,” he adds.
“This revolutionary technology will change the economics of how people are going to build photonic systems,” says Juniper’s CEO Rami Rahim. “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,” he adds. “We are excited to continue to collaborate with the new company to enable a broad ecosystem to efficiently develop next-generation optical transceiver and co-packaged designs.”
A key challenge for silicon photonics has been the cost of adding discrete lasers, which includes the manufacturing as well as the assembly and alignment of those lasers onto the photonic chip. This becomes more important as the number of laser channels and the overall bandwidth increases. By processing the indium phosphide (InP) materials directly onto the silicon photonics wafer, the PH18DA platform reduces the cost and time of adding lasers, enabling volume scalability and improved power efficiency. In addition, monolithically integrated lasers on silicon wafers improves overall reliability and simplifies packaging. This ‘laser-on-a-chip’ open silicon photonics platform will bring integrated photonics to a host of new applications and markets that were previously not thought possible. The first multi-project wafer (MPW) is scheduled to be taped out in second-quarter 2022.
“We have had a long history of successful collaboration with Juniper Networks on integrated photonics,” notes Tower Semiconductor’s CEO Russell Ellwanger. “The new company formed by Synopsys and Juniper will strengthen and accelerate the adoption of the silicon photonics platform,” he adds. “Providing an open silicon photonics platform consisting of integrated lasers that has been qualified on Tower's process will enable customers to create innovative products with the potential to transform the industry.”