Celestial AI, a startup co-founded by David Lazovsky and Preet Virk, has successfully raised $100 million in a Series B funding round led by IAG Capital Partners, Koch Disruptive Technologies, and Temasek’s Xora Innovation fund. The startup specializes in optical interconnect technology for data transmission within and between computing devices, addressing the growing “data movement” challenge faced by AI and machine learning workloads.
Lazovsky and Virk, who come from semiconductor engineering and photonics backgrounds, recognized the imminent problem of moving data to and from compute hardware as AI models expanded beyond the capacity of memory chips. To tackle this issue, they collaborated with Phil Winterbottom, formerly a researcher at Bell Labs, to develop an innovative solution: an optical interconnect technology capable of transmitting data between compute-to-compute, compute-to-memory, and on-chip systems.
With the latest funding, Celestial AI plans to accelerate the production of its photonics platform by expanding its engineering, sales, and technical marketing departments. Currently employing around 100 individuals, the company expects to reach 130 employees by the end of the year.
Celestial AI’s technology enables memory disaggregation, a critical advancement in data centers where memory resources are often underutilized due to their close coupling with compute. Disaggregating memory allows for more efficient use of this expensive resource, potentially reducing data center costs by 4% to 5%. Microsoft’s internal study revealed that up to 25% of memory in Azure is left unused after the servers’ cores are allocated to virtual machines, highlighting the need for memory optimization.
By utilizing photonics-based architecture, Celestial AI’s solution enables high-bandwidth and low-latency data transmission within and between chips. The technology can significantly reduce electricity consumption required for data movement, enhancing the overall performance of computing chips. Compatible with industry interconnect standards such as CXL and PCIe, Celestial’s photonics tech boasts 25 times higher bandwidth and 10 times lower latency and power consumption compared to other optical alternatives.
While Celestial AI offers its own AI accelerator chip, called Orion, based on its photonics architecture, the interconnect product is currently the company’s main focus. The company operates a licensing program and has engaged with notable customers, including hyperscalers and prominent processor and memory companies.
While competition exists in the photonic integrated circuit market, Celestial AI believes its photonics technology offers unique differentiators and superior characteristics. With increasing demand for optical connectivity to support the transition from general computing data center infrastructure to accelerated computing, Celestial AI aims to lead the way in optimizing data center memory and enabling high-performance AI workloads.