When Angelos Arelakis began his doctoral studies with Per Stenström at Chalmers in 2010, they sat down to discuss possible topics for the dissertation, and the potential of memory compression came up. Per Stenström suggested "a simple experiment to get things on the road", and the results of those tests were far beyond all expectations. The research that has followed has now evolved into a promising business concept.
Usually the subject of memory compression is about compressing data to be stored or transported without processing. In modern computers arithmetic operations are performed in the CPU, which means that data must be fetched from memory when calculations are to be made, traffic that costs both time and energy. The new technology developed at Chalmers handles active data, while it's being processed.
"The benefit of the technology is increased memory capacity, but also increased CPU and memory throughput, which basically will lead to improved performance without affecting the physical size of the memory, or the energy consumption," says Angelos Arelakis.
He left Chalmers earlier this year to become chief system architect at ZeroPoint Technologies AB, the company he founded with Per Stenström in 2015, with the goal of commercializing the technology he developed as a PhD student. The company aims to release its first product on the market in 2017, and as the technology can be applied to all types of data, the potential customers are companies that deal with everything from smartphones to major computer centers. Already in the early research results, Per Stenström anticipated future commercial opportunities, and the first patent application was filed in 2012. Since then, six more applications have been submitted, and the first patent has been granted.
Solutions that improve storage capacity through different compression systems and methods are already on the market, some are even fast enough to also provide improved memory capacity. What's unique with the technology from Zeropoint is the combination of speed, intelligent compression and generality. Because the compression algorithms are implemented in hardware logic rather than in the software, they become extremely fast, and the software developers can continue as usual without the need for any adjustments. The company has evaluated various applications in collaboration with several international IT companies.
"There is no golden business model, you need to do trial and error. We have taken different applications to some potential customers, and they need to verify that the technology works. If it doesn't make sense, it's not meaningful to proceed. The product we are closest to launching now is a licensed IP core," says Angelos Arelakis.
ZeroPoint Technologies AB has received start-up contributions from, among others, Chalmers Ventures and Qamcom, to take the product to the market. Angelos Arelakis has also been awarded a scholarship from King Carl XVI Gustaf's 50th birthday foundation for science, technology and the environment
to further develop his research. The company currently employs about 8 people, but recruits continuously for new positions. The research at Chalmers was conducted within the project Euroserver, in EU FP7.