Esperanto, Rapidus align to tackle AI data center power concerns

Esperanto Technologies, one of the growing number of companies leveraging the RISC-V instruction set architecture, announced a partnership with semiconductor manufacturer Rapidus Corporation that will help Esperanto advance its low-power AI chips for data centers.

Mountain View, California-based Esperanto and Tokyo-headquartered Rapidus said they signed a Memorandum of Cooperation that call for the two companies “to promote the development and manufacture of low-power consumption AI semiconductors for data centers, which will be indispensable in the coming full-fledged AI era,” according to a statement from Esperanto.

The agreement comes at a time when the data center and energy industries are becoming more concerned about the growing power consumption of massive facilities and the GPUs that are core to AI accelerated computing.

Craig Cochran, Vice President of Marketing and Business Development, Esperanto Technologies, told Fierce Electronics via email that the company already has engagements with data center customers around the world as they confront these power concerns, and that the work with Rapidus will not be focused strictly on production for data centers in Japan.

“Esperanto has customer engagements with data center customers in the US, Europe, and Japan,” he said. “We have collaborated closely with these companies to help avoid the coming energy crisis that will be brought on by deployment of power-hungry GPUs at scale to handle Generative AI. Leveraging RISC-V and extremely efficient power design techniques, Esperanto’s low-power approach will help reduce total cost of ownership while helping realize Rapidus’ vision of innovating toward a truly green society.”

According to the International Energy Agency’s January report “Electricity 2024,” data centers are significant drivers of growth in electricity demand in many regions. After globally consuming an estimated 460 terawatt-hours (TWh) in 2022, data centers’ total electricity consumption could reach more than 1,000 TWh in 2026. This demand is roughly equivalent to the entire electricity consumption of Japan. 

Esperanto already has one foundry partner, relying TSMC for its first-generation 7nm silicon, Cochran said, adding, “The company intends to extend its existing manufacturing ecosystem and partnerships with the addition of Rapidus.”

Rapidus recently has been seen as a rising alternative to the like of TSMC and Samsung, and last month spoke with Fierce Electronics about its new 2nm production facility in Chitose City, Hokkaido, which the company said would be Japan’s first 2nm manufacturing site when starts operation of a pilot production line–anticipated in April 2025, and begins mass production in 2027.

The 2nm process has been seen as a foundation for enabling better processing performance, but also “dramatically reduced power consumption,” according to Esperanto. Rapidus has been dispatching researchers to the Albany Nanotech Complex in New York, one of the world’s most advanced semiconductor research centers, to work with IBM to develop technologies for the production of 2nm logic semiconductors, according to the Esperanto announcement. “The company is also planning to acquire EUV lithography technology, which is essential for the production of cutting-edge semiconductors, from imec,” the statement said.

  “The strategic partnership with Rapidus plays a key role in our expansion plans for Japan,” said Art Swift, CEO of Esperanto Technologies Inc. “Rapidus represents a new approach to leading-edge semiconductor manufacturing, and we are very impressed with the direction and speed at which they are operating. Along with our other partners in Japan, we hope our new relationship with Rapidus will extend the benefits of our energy efficient technology to a broader set of SoC designers.”

“As part of our corporate philosophy, we will commit ourselves to further innovating toward a truly green society,” said Dr. Atsuyoshi Koike, president and CEO of Rapidus Corporation. “As we enter the age of full-fledged AI, it is imperative to design and manufacture semiconductors with superior energy-saving performance, and we believe that this collaboration with Esperanto is a major step toward solving this issue.”