2nd Gen HBM2 Aquabolt Starts Mass Production

Alfred Osborne
January 13, 2018

Samsung is betting heavily on the success of High-Bandwidth Memory 2 (HBM2), ramping up mass production on a new variant it claims is the industry's fastest at 2.4 gigabits per second (Gb/s) per pin. Now bandwidth per package can be found simply by multiplying the available memory speed by the bus width.

While I am a bit unsure of the "Aquabolt" name, there is no doubt that HBM is finding its place in the industry, and now HBM2 is in production by Samsung.

Behind the advancement in HBM2 generations is, of course, some interesting science. To put this into perspective, while GDDR4 can attain speeds of up to 8 Gbps, their bus width per package is usually 32 which puts the total bandwidth per package at a measly 32 GB/s (as compared to 307 GB/s on HBM2 "Aquabolt").

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Samsung's first 8GB HBM2 package offered a transfer rate of 1.6Gbps at 1.2V (and 2.0Gbps at 1.35V). For the greater speeds achieved Samsung had to tweak the TSV design while minimising inter-layer skew. By using four HBM2 packages, it is possible to achieve a 1.2TBps bandwidth, which is a 50 percent improvement compared to standard 1.6Gbps HBM2 chips.

Thus far Samsung has not offered details on when the first Aquabolt-based HBM2 products will be hitting the market, but is clearly expecting the parts to feature heavily in next-gen products in the fields of 'supercomputing, artificial intelligence, and graphics processing'. A single 8 GB HBM2 package is made using eight vertically interconnected 8 Gb HBM2 dies. While using so many TSVs can cause collateral clock skew, Samsung succeeded in minimizing the skew to a very modest level and significantly enhancing chip performance in the process. Samsung has also increased the number of thermal bumps between HBM2 dies, enabling better thermal control and added an additional protective layer at the bottom, increasing the overall package strength.

Samsung didn't say when it would be supplying the new memory to partners although if it's already in mass production, one can hope that partner availability won't be too far out.

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