Microsoft and Rambus Extend Cryogenic Memory Collaboration

Microsoft and Rambus Inc. have expanded a research collaboration begun in 2015 to develop prototype systems that optimize computer memory performance at cryogenic temperatures. The new agreement extends joint efforts to enhance memory capabilities, reduce energy consumption and improve overall system performance.

“We’re excited to continue working with Rambus and broaden our partnership to further develop technologies for memory optimization in cryogenic temperatures,” says Doug Carmean, partner architect within Microsoft’s research organization. “Rambus’ expertise in memory systems has helped us identify new memory architectures to meet our future requirements.”

The technologies being developed under the partnership, according to Rambus, will improve energy efficiency for DRAM and logic operation at temperatures below -180°C, conditions considered ideal for high-performance super and quantum computers. Additionally, it will enable high-speed links to operate efficiently in cryogenic and superconducting domains and allow new memory systems to function at these temperatures.

“With the increasing challenges in conventional approaches to improving memory capacity and power efficiency, our early research indicates that a significant change in the operating temperature of DRAM using cryogenic techniques may become essential in future memory systems,” says Dr. Gary Bronner, vice president of Rambus Labs. “Our strategic partnership with Microsoft has enabled us to identify new architectural models as we strive to develop systems utilizing cryogenic memory. The expansion of this collaboration will lead to new applications in high-performance super computers (HPC) and quantum computers.”

Benefits of cryogenics and superconducting. Image: Rambus

Benefits of cryogenics and superconducting. Image: Rambus

In a blog post published concurrently with the announcement, Rambus engineers further explore the benefits of cryogenics and superconducting. “There are multiple public and private sector research projects around cryogenic computing as well as quantum computing,” according to the post. “These efforts show high speed processes capable of manipulating large amounts of data, which creates a multiple order of magnitude gap in the speed at which data can be sent or received from that process.”

“There is also a temperature gap between room temperature operation of current supercomputers (approximately 300K) and the operating temperature of a cryogenic core (4K). Rambus is seeking to close these gaps by designing and developing optimized memory sub-system solutions, capable of operating at 77K and interfacing to computers operating at liquid helium temperatures (4K).

The memory project also is part of Microsoft’s larger goal of developing a scalable quantum computer. In November 2016, the company announced that it was partnering with several experts in the field, including Charles Marcus, director of the Center for Quantum Devices, and Leo Kouwenhoven, founding director of the Advanced Research Center on Quantum Technologies. In the coming years, Microsoft hopes all the partnerships will facilitate the creation of both the hardware and software necessary for quantum computing.