Astera Labs Taps Toronto Talent with Canadian Expansion

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Astera Labs’ recent expansion to Canada is more than just about adding headcount. Its new Greater Toronto Area research and development design center is just the beginning of its growth in that country.

Sanjay Gajendra (Source: Astera Labs)

Sanjay Gajendra, chief business officer at Astera Labs, said the Markham, Ontario, location will focus on developing intelligent connectivity solutions for machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) infrastructure, serving as an end-to-end design center for silicon technology and product development.

“They’re running their own products. That includes multiple different functions like the design of the products, testing, validation, marketing, supporting customers, and things like that,” Gajendra said. “It’s a fully self-contained business unit.”

Located in York Region, north of Toronto, the area is Canada’s second largest technology hub, which makes it one of the fastest growing technology talent markets in North America. Astera Labs is actively hiring across multiple engineering disciplines to support end-to-end product development, and Gajendra said recruiting local talent and retaining North American talent was a key driver for opening a Canadian location.

The company and the broader technology industry has faced challenges keeping people in the U.S., as it’s become more difficult to bring in people from overseas, he explained. Meanwhile, staff already working for Astera Labs in its Santa Clara, California, headquarters are struggling to land long-term residency and moving to the Canadian facility would allow them to remain in North America. The company also has offices in Shanghai, Beijing, and Shenzhen, China, as well as in Taipei, Taiwan.

Gajendra said the local talent, including graduates coming out of universities coupled with the presence of other semiconductor IP and large technology companies, presented an opportunity to seed its semiconductor product development.

“We are working on AI and machine learning, which is going to be a dominant and big growing market for pretty much any region you can think of.”

Astera Labs is transitioning from a start-up phase and into a scale-up phase, he added, so tapping into Toronto to grow its team made a lot of sense. Especially because universities can provide a talent pool over the longer term. “That is something that we are counting on.”

Astera Labs executives host Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti and Toronto Global CEO Stephen Lund for its new Research and Development Design Center ribbon cutting ceremony. Pictured from left to right: Sagar Satish, Kush Saxena, Sanjay Gajendra, Frank Scarpitti, and Stephen Lund. (Source: Astera Labs) (Click image to enlarge)

Aside from hiring, Gajendra said Astera Labs sees potential for developing some technology partnership with local universities. “We can collaborate on some of the emerging area as it relates to, either semiconductor development or AI/machine learning infrastructure deployment in the cloud.”

He said the implementation of AI in the cloud means the infrastructure that is running in data centers needs to significantly change to support the new workloads that are becoming more prominent. This not only includes vast amounts of data, but more complex data that must be processed quickly.

Development around the Compute Express Link (CXL) protocol for improved connectivity among resources including the memory, CPU, and GPU, then becomes paramount. “The connectivity is not just about speed, but also for provisioning,” Gajendra said.

Late last year, Astera Labs introduced its Leo CXL Memory Accelerator Platform, which allows a CPU to access and manage CXL-attached DRAM and persistent memory, making the use of centralized memory resources more efficient and allowing that access to scale up without slowing down performance. The Leo accelerator is one of many CXL products released last year as the specification gains traction.

Expansion-wise, the Greater Toronto Area is just the beginning as the company is eyeing a Canadian west coast presence in Vancouver, British Columbia, Gajendra said. “We do plan to invest and expand n Canada in general, Toronto and Vancouver being the two sort of anchor locations.”

Earlier this year, the Government of Canada announced its Semiconductor Challenge Callout, a fund through the Strategic Innovation Fund to make targeted investments to build on Canada’s domestic strengths associated with the development and supply of semiconductors.

The semiconductor sector in Canada includes more than 100 homegrown and multi-national companies conducting research and development on microchips. The country’s manufacturing base includes more than3 0 applied research laboratories and 5 commercial facilities in areas such as compound semiconductors, microelectromechanical systems, and advanced packaging.

Gary Hilson is a general contributing editor with a focus on memory and flash technologies for EE Times.

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