By Angela Rose | May 01, 2023
High-performance microprocessors and associated software
Michael Doerr founded Coherent Logix in 2005 to tackle the challenge of developing a lower power, lower-sized footprint, high-performance processor for U.S. defense agencies. "The journey started over 15 years ago to develop what we now call the HyperX processor," says Gall. "And the low power, high performance characteristics of Coherent Logix's semiconductor fit that bill."
The inspiration behind HyperX came from biology, Gall explains. "The human brain and other advanced neural systems have what's called an event-oriented processing characteristic. What I mean by that is our neurons, or certain regions of the brain that specialize in certain functions, are not firing unless they're actually doing work. They're not consuming energy unnecessarily, and this event-oriented processing design is really at the crux of what supports Coherent's HyperX low power, high performance features."
Additionally, Coherent Logix has co-localized the processor's compute and memory, placing them proximal to each other to handle a diversity of multimodal data inputs. "The ability to handle diversity of data," Gall continues, "and to be able to stream that data across a computing fabric, allows [for] the efficient transfer of data and communications that are necessary to do low power, high performance computing."
This innovation is timely in a number of markets, Gall says, including Space. "We launched our first product, HyperX Midnight, last month at the Satellite 2023 show," he explains. "It's a radiation-hardened semiconductor chip that is LEO/MEO/GEO ready. What that means is across the different altitudes from low Earth orbit all the way up to geospatial orbit, this chip can support high-performance computing at what we call low swap, which is size, weight, and power. This chip can fulfill all those requirements at each of those different radiation environments."
HyperX Midnight is reprogrammable in the field or at runtime in production, enabling customers to "add new features to support new workloads or integrate new algorithms in the hardware-software systems," Gall says. The processor is programmed in C, the most common programming language for embedded systems, adding to the ease of reprogramability.
"You hear this term of 'software-defined,'" Gall says, "or the virtualization of different systems. That's purely at the software level. What Coherent Logix has done has virtualized the system-on-chip, or the embedded hardware itself, where you can reconfigure or reprogram that hardware based on the software requirements for a particular device. So, whether standards have changed or you're trying to add additional features or operations, the Coherent hardware-software platform, called HyperX Studio, supports our customers and our partners in being able to do those upgrades as well as debugging once a device is out there in the field."
This capability means, for example, that customers launching software-defined satellites don't have to refresh them every three to five years. "That naturally extends the product lifecycle for those expensive line items for our defense agencies as well as our commercial companies that are moving into space," says Gall. Other industries he expects will benefit from the company's technology include security and the media communications market.
"The media communications market is an example of this sort of multimodal universe we're evolving into," Gall says. "On one hand, you have computer vision and natural language processing being present on many smart devices across the home. It's also moving to the TV, and that sort of trend is going to continue to move to other screens. Those experiences will continue to proliferate into cars and into enterprise, where video conferencing is becoming the norm. That's an example of multimodal. But that multimodal nature in the media communications market is also happening in a different dimension as it relates to broadcast and the internet."
Gall explains that, traditionally, broadcast television and radio have used the RF spectrum, traveling over the air. "But now you're getting into over-the-top video streaming that's becoming so popular," he continues. "And so that multimodal industry evolution is often termed 'broadcast internet,' where we have those signals coming into our family rooms as well as other on-the-go mobile devices. It increases the complexity and constraints on the system as it relates to compute memory and networking."
The result is additional energy consumption and network latency associated with increased workloads, which continue to evolve in complexity with the additional multimodal characteristics and diversity of the workloads being supported.
Fortunately, “Coherent's architecture -- with its low power, high performance, low footprint characteristics -- is ready for the challenge of being able to support what I call multimodal media," Gall says. "Some media communications, which used to be separate as far as markets, are starting to converge and collapse on one another, where you're doing media communications across all of these devices, not just one or two. That evolution in the market is an interesting one that we're going to be going after. And we have early adopter customers and partners that we're working with today in that setting."
A fabless semiconductor company, Coherent Logix focuses on the design, front end, and back-end development of its semiconductor chips before utilizing contract manufacturers for production.
"In the case of our software-defined satellite chip HyperX midnight, it has to be manufactured here domestically in the U.S. through Global Foundries in New York,” Gall says. “Our consumer device chips today are manufactured in Taiwan at TSMC. And having that flexibility to evaluate different options with different foundry relationships is critical to hit the bill of materials or BOM costs and other supply chain costs to bring a product to market as it relates to the chip development, manufacturing, testing, and packaging [for] our customers and channel partners."
Challenges: Gall says that one of the company's biggest challenges is successfully transitioning from R&D to addressing all of the customers interested in HyperX technology. "We have lots of leads in the markets that we're focused on," he explains, "and we're excited about all of those leads. But we have to be successful at executing on customer support."
Opportunities: "We have a very high performance, low power product that's very attractive to both commercial and government entities that are launching satellites across different altitudes and different constellation requirements," he continues. "To execute in that growing space market is our greatest opportunity. And then to rinse and repeat that success here on Earth with [non-radiation hardened] versions of our chips that similarly have that low power, high performance characteristic and are also programmable once you launch them in the field."
Needs: "We are hiring across the board for hardware engineering and software engineering roles," Gall says. "We're hiring people in finance and business development in addition to the product and marketing side, including manufacturing, supply chain management, and quality control. We're hiring in each of those categories."