Sunday, August 01, 2010

Intel Announces 50Gbps Silicon Photonics Link

This one makes the "John's Cool Stuff" list for the week - Intel announced that for the first time they have an integrated silicon photonics transmitter using hybrid silicon lasers that is capable of sending data at 50 gigabits per second across an optical fiber to an integrated silicon photonics receiver chip which converts the optical data back into electrical.

As Intel summarizes in their blog -- this milestone brings together two of the most important inventions of the past century: silicon manufacturing and the laser. The 50Gbps is achieved through four optical channels modulated at a rate of 12.5Gbps. The scalability of these devices is what is exciting -- instead of 4 channels, do 8 or 16 and their delivery rate scales up to 100G, 200G, 500G and ultimately 1 Terabit per second (1,000,000,000,000 bits per second)! All of this in a device made out of a single integrated photonic chip smaller than your finger nail.

Why is this important? Let’s start with high end computing. Within servers, as demand for higher data rates increases, today’s copper interconnects require close proximity of processors, memory and IO. This limits, for instance, the amount of memory in the system to the number of modules (DIMMs) that can be mounted close to the CPU and or that can fit in the box. It also impacts the abililty to cool the system with many devices assembled so close together. Silicon Photonics will provide the ability to bring high speed optical communications into the platform, effectively relieving these distance constraints and providing the flexibility that could revolutionize system design.