Apparently, I’m not the only one who thought SuVolta is a great example of the future of chip tech. Bright Capital, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, August Capital, New Enterprise Associates, Northgate Capital and DAG Ventures all have contributed to a $17.6 million funding round in the company, which doesn’t exactly design chips but has come up with a novel way to design transistors in a way that makes them use less power.
Chips made using its technique have recently run at full speed but consumed half the power of their counterparts that use traditional transistors. This isn’t just a concern of a crazy startup; Intel recently unveiled a new process technology using 3-D transistors that is designed to save on power by helping chips continue to get smaller.
However, SuVolta’s process is pretty sweet because it uses the existing manufacturing tools already in place at the multi-billion semiconductor manufacturing plants, and because it should continue to work as designers shrink their chips. SuVolta also licenses some IP that gives designers a way to tweak their circuits to optimize the efficacy of the power-saving transistors.
It’s also designed to work best for systems on a chip, which are clusters of different processors integrated on one piece of silicon. In PCs and servers, a single or multi-core CPU was the ideal design choice, but for mobile devices and consumer products, integrating a bunch of different types of cores on a single chip has won out because it saves on space and power. This is why I listed SuVolta one of the three startups that showcase the future of chips.
And saving on space and power is the name of the game as devices go mobile and energy becomes a huge issue, either because of battery life or because power generation has become such a limiting factor in the data center. In fact, many of the chip companies that have managed to raise money in the last two or three years are working to reduce power either through some new process or through using new architectures to perform work more efficiently. Companies such as Adapteva, which is using a different architecture to deliver performance with less power in supercomputers and phones; Calxeda, which is trying to use ARM-based chips for low-power servers; and Lyric Semiconductor, which is focused on a new type of computing, all have raised money in the last few years.
But to show how rare such capital-intensive chip deals are, SuVolta pulled together this infographic to drive it home. As a chip reporter who once covered the bubble years when chip startups were a dime a dozen, I live this shrinkage, because there are fewer pitches and fun stories to write, but this makes it easy for everyone to see what’s going on.