In brief: With the rising popularity of chiplets in semiconductors, market leaders in packaging, IP suppliers, foundries, and cloud service providers have joined forces to launch the Universal Chiplet Interconnect Express (UCIe) standard to establish an open ecosystem for future technologies. Industry leaders joining the initiative already include the likes of AMD, Intel, Meta, Microsoft, Google, TSMC, Samsung, Arm, and Qualcomm.
According to Gordon Moore, the number of transistors in an integrated circuit doubles every two years (Moore's Law). However, maintaining this while using a monolithic design has gradually become more challenging, leading companies like AMD and Intel to use chiplet systems within their products. Moore predicted this in 1965, calling it the "Day of Reckoning."
"It may prove to be more economical to build large systems out of smaller functions, which are separately packaged and interconnected," Moore said.
From the early days of chiplet designs, companies have been using their own die-to-die interconnect systems. However, as chiplets become the new norm for CPUs and GPUs, developing an industry-wide standard would greatly help the industry, as manufacturing partners could use components from different ecosystems and still create an SoC with them.
The UCIe consortium looks to standardize an open die-to-die interconnect system at the package level that allows companies to use components from different sources to create GPUs, CPUs, SoCs, and more. Currently, UCIe 1.0 specifies the die-to-die I/O physical layer, protocol stack, software model (including PCIe and CXL standards), and compliance testing.
Besides the modularity it brings, implementing the new standard across the chip industry would also speed up the development of new technologies and lower manufacturing costs for semiconductor companies. Moreover, it could help chip manufacturers deal with the ongoing chip shortage since they wouldn't be stuck with a single supplier.
Some promoters of the UCIe include AMD, ASE, Intel, Meta, Microsoft, Google, TSMC, Samsung, Arm, and Qualcomm. Still, the consortium encourages other companies and institutions to join in, hoping to make UCIe more widely adopted.
Starting later this year, members of the consortium will begin to work on the next generation of UCIe technology, defining aspects such as the chiplet form factor, management, enhanced security, and protocols.
"Integrating multiple chiplets in a package to deliver product innovation across market segments is the future of the semiconductor industry," said Sandra Rivera, EVP of Intel's GM, Data Center, and AI division. "Critical to this future is an open chiplet ecosystem with key industry partners working together under the UCIe Consortium toward a common goal of transforming the way the industry delivers new products and continues to deliver on the promise of Moore's Law."
To learn more about the UCIe standard, you can download the white paper that goes into deeper detail about the technology. In addition, we also recommend you to read our opinion article on how chiplets become the new semiconductor trend.