Accelerating CXL Adoption with Hybrid Switch Technology

As next-generation applications for artificial intelligence (AI) and high-performance computing (HPC) proliferate, the demand they place on memory bandwidth becomes a mounting challenge. Despite remarkable strides in computing power, the insatiable demand for memory bandwidth and capacity is hindering overall application performance. Enter Compute Express Link™ (CXL), an industry-supported cache-coherent interconnect technology poised to revolutionize the landscape.

CXL ensures memory coherency among CPU memory, CXL-fabric-attached memory pools, and memory on attached devices, enabling resource sharing with unparalleled performance compared to prior interconnect technologies. This breakthrough addresses the challenges faced by AI and HPC, ushering in systems capable of supporting emerging applications in AI and Machine Learning.

The Hybrid Solution for System Design Agility

While the advent of CXL instills hope for AI and HPC developers and users, system designers are still faced with how to meet both current and future interconnect requirements. PCIe (Peripheral component Interconnect Express) remains a widely used interface for connecting hardware components, including GPUs and storage devices. Many traditional applications only need the interconnect capability offered by PCIe. Yet, emergingly, next-generation applications need the higher bandwidth enabled by CXL. Systems designers can be stuck trying to meet demand for the approach with the greatest need.

XConn is meeting this challenge by offering the industry’s first and only hybrid CXL 2.0 and PCIe Gen 5 switch. Combining both interconnect technologies on a single 256-lane SoC, the XConn “Apollo” switch offers the industry’s lowest port-to-port latency and lowest power consumption per port in a single chip – all at a low total cost of ownership.

As a result, system designers only have to design once to achieve versatile expansion, heterogeneous integration for a mix of accelerators and fault tolerance with the redundancy mission critical applications required for true processing availability. Able to serve as a universal interface for CPUs, GPUs, DPUs, FPGAs, and other accelerators, the XConn hybrid switch offers:

  • Versatile Expansion: CXL/PCIe switches can be used to connect multiple CXL/PCIe devices mix matched, enabling system designers to create scalable and flexible architectures. This is particularly valuable for HPC clusters and data centers where modular expansion is essential. Even more valuable is the ability to use PCIe and CXL in a single switch where system designers can design hardware once and have the flexibility to support either CXL or PCIe devices by programming the port configuration through software changes.
  • Cost Efficiency: As an advanced interconnect solution, the XConn Apollo switch supports both CXL 2.0 and PCIe Gen 5 in a single system-on-chip (SoC). Offering up to 256 lanes, it offers a huge amount of switching capacity that normally requires two or more switches from other vendors – a huge cost savings for system companies on printed circuit board (PCB) area, bunch-of-memory components, and thermal consumption. The hybrid-mode design also offers design savings, where a single hardware design will work with today’s PCIe devices while being future upgradable into a CXL device without re-spinning the PCB design.
  • Heterogeneous Integration: Many AI and HPC workloads require a mix of accelerators, such as GPUs, TPUs, and FPGAs. Hybrid PCIe-CXL switches can seamlessly integrate these diverse accelerators taking advantage of the processing performance, scale and lower cost of CXL memory, allowing for heterogeneous computing environments to be optimized for specific tasks.
  • Fault Tolerance: The agility of hybrid PCIe-CXL switches can enhance system reliability by providing redundancy and failover capabilities. This is crucial for mission-critical applications where downtime is not an option.

CXL is transforming memory availability for AI and HPC applications. By enhancing memory bandwidth, capacity, and interoperability, CXL promises to unlock the full potential of these memory-intensive workloads. Adoption of this valuable innovation will be accelerated through the delivery of hybrid PCIe-CXL switches which deliver the versatility and efficiency systems designers need to meet diverse use case demands.

To learn more about XConn Technologies hybrid CXL switch technology, visit the website here.

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About Author

Gerry Fan is the CEO of XConn Technologies, a company that is an innovation leader in next-generation interconnect technology for the future of high-performance computing and AI applications. Founded in 2020 by a team of memory and high-performance switching experts, XConn is intent on bringing the value of Compute Express Link™ (CXL™), an industry-supported Cache-Coherent Interconnect for Processors, Memory Expansion and Accelerators, to the mainstream market to mitigate the escalation of energy consumption in today’s data centers. For more information visit: