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‘CXL’ May Well Be How Data Centers Spell Relief

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It’s no secret that AI and big data will change almost every business on the planet by slashing some costs, unlocking insights and driving unthinkable efficiency. While investors have been rightfully pouring money into those spaces, they’ve neglected the very backbone enabling AI and big data to take hold, putting high performance computing (HPC) and data centers under considerable and worsening strain.

The novel Compute Express Link (CXL) technology maintains memory coherency between the CPU memory space and memory on attached devices. Propelling the computing industry into a new age, CXL enables higher performance and lowers overall system cost, among many other things.

CXL is the only viable answer for data centers to not only withstand growing pressures, but also excel and prepare for the future. Shrewd investors who have witnessed even a small glimpse of the overbearing data demands and the corresponding CXL excitement of recent months will recognize its potential as both a solution and an investment opportunity.

Unlock performance by rewriting computing rules

Lior Handelsman (Source: Grove)

The global AI market is booming, with the adoption rate now at 35%, a four-point increase from the year before, according to IBM. While set to transform life, the burdens of AI on current computing systems are huge, with data centers needing to handle increasing amounts of data at a rapid rate.

Memory, which is central to all data center transactions, is known to be the most expensive part of the infrastructure, yet it is largely underutilized. This problem is only going to grow. The technology available today requires using more memory interfaces if data centers are to continue using the same systems.

This solution is unsustainable because data centers must continue to operate at lightning-fast speeds while accessing more memory, thus requiring a new approach to memory utilization. As data centers strive to keep pace with the growing demands of the digital age, CXL technology presents an exciting opportunity to enhance memory utilization and optimize system performance.

The misconception of CXL’s latency problem

Looming questions about whether CXL can overcome the growing tail latency (high-percentile latency) problem cause misconceptions about the true potential of this technology.

Tail latency is a growing problem and can be caused by various issues, including outdated storage solutions, growing demand and changing workloads. Speculation about whether CXL can address this issue stems namely from early solutions focusing only on functionality without showing real performance figures.

However, CXL start-up UnifabriX has developed a CXL solution supporting low-latency, high-speed memory pooling with additional memory bandwidth, quintessentially solving the latency “problem.” The company’s CXL achievements have been measured against industry benchmarks.

Advancements like this stand CXL apart from its predecessor, PCIe, indicating that this technology is the solution the computing industry so desperately needs. This will only happen, however, if smart investors grasp the opportunity.

CXL will revolutionize the data center  

CXL technology is backed by all industry leaders, including computing giants like Intel, AMD, Arm, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Dell, Lenovo and Samsung. Some see CXL technology with improved memory performance coming to consumer platforms within five years.

Data center infrastructure is heavily relied upon by every industry today, and no matter the economic climate, it must change to meet growing demands and make the technology firmly recession- and inflation-proof. Investment in this young technology is not only critical for the future of data centers but will also secure its already-building success and encourage further innovation.

—Lior Handelsman is a general partner at Grove Ventures.

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