Oriole Networks secures funding to transform AI systems and data centres using light

Oriole Networks secures funding to transform AI systems and data centres using light

Oriole Networks, a new company that seeks to transform the performance of AI systems and data centres harnessing the power of light, has raised £10 million in seed funding.

The round was co-led by UCL Technology Fund, Clean Growth Fund, XTX Ventures and Dorilton Ventures, with support from Innovate UK Investor Partnership.

UCL spinout Oriole Networks was created in 2023 by four founders, Professor George Zervas, James Regan, Alessandro Ottino and Joshua Benjamin, with IP licensed through UCL’s technology transfer company UCLB.

UCL scientists Zervas, Ottino and Benjamin had found a way to use light to connect thousands of AI GPUs directly to each other, resulting in much higher performance. Regan already had a track record of building successful tech companies from university spinouts, having spun out and built EFFECT Photonics.

Data centres have played a critical role in the proliferation of SaaS companies and are also supporting the predicted platform shift towards AI. However, the increasing demands placed on data centres and the approach underlying their networking are leading to systemic problems and unsustainable power consumption.

With Oriole’s novel approach, Large Language Models can be trained up to a hundred times faster, while consuming only a tiny fraction of the power. As a result, Machine Learning algorithms can run with a thousandth of the latency, potentially revolutionising time critical tasks such as algorithmic trading, and speeding up AI adoption and AI algorithmic progress.

George Zervas, CTO, said: “AI computational needs are increasing by 10 times every 18 months. This leads to distributed training and inference across large numbers of xPUs. Collective data movement across the servers in the data centre becomes a bottleneck which in turn limits the training and inference completion time. This requires a fundamental shift in the co-design of next generation networked systems.”

James Regan, CEO, added: “As the demand for compute continues to increase, it is critical to find new solutions that can address these challenges in a sustainable and carbon efficient manner. Our novel approach to harness the power of light has already demonstrated significant technical performance improvements, up to 100 times speed up in completion time and 40 times improvements in energy consumption.”

David Grimm, Partner UCL Technology Fund, said: “It’s rare to have such depth of innovation over many years at UCL combined with an experienced entrepreneur with domain knowledge and a massive market that is looking for this solution. This is going to be an exciting journey.”

Daniel Freeman, General Partner at Dorilton Ventures, said: “We invest in companies in the IT infrastructure, data science and cybersecurity segments whose products support computationally driven businesses. Over the last decade, compute performance has improved 10 times faster than networking performance, so HPC environments are highly network constrained. Oriole’s exciting approach can unlock the latent potential in existing infrastructure.”

Beverley Gower-Jones OBE, Managing Partner of Clean Growth Fund, emphasised the criticality of sustainable development: “The world’s data centres already consume as much electricity as the whole of the UK, and it is rising rapidly, threatening to consume as much as the whole of Europe unless something is done. This radical approach to Net Zero innovation is exactly what is needed.”

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