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Sarda Delivers Granular Power

October 27, 2015

Author: Jag Bolaria

Energy efficiency has become the leading design criterion for applications that range from smart phones to servers. Improving it requires reduction in the overhead to manage and deliver power. A critical step in the power delivery chain is efficient voltage regulation, which uses fast switching to reduce power across multiple voltage levels. To minimize power lost during switching, voltages need to switch quickly between active and idle modes. Traditional discrete MOSFET voltage regulators are bulky and slow. With Haswell, Intel turned to fully integrated voltage regulators (FIVR) to reduce space taken by regulators on the system board and to get fast transient response when switching voltage levels. Although Intel hailed its FIVR as innovative and groundbreaking, it has backed off from long-term commitment and recently released Skylake without FIVR.

In the absence of IVR, Sarda aims to offer the next best thing with fast switching voltage regulators (VR) that are smaller than traditional MOSFET regulators. Thus, they enable more granular power delivery than external MOSFET-based VRs and can be placed inside the package for PIVR (package IVR) or on the board where they consume less space than traditional approaches.

To enable faster operation, the startup uses GaAs FETs, which are typically costlier than MOSFETs, but it claims their die area and cost are 80% lower. The solution, due to sample in 1Q16, consists of a driver IC, GaAs FETs, and passive components packaged in a QFN multichip module. If the startup can prove the performance, reliability, and cost effectiveness of its solution, its Hips (heterogeneously integrated power stages) module will be popular. Established players are also working on high-switching-frequency VRs and could offer alternatives to Sarda. In any case, faster VRs will become more common for devices ranging from embedded SoCs to FPGAs and data-center processors.

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