Story image

Intel debuts silicon photonics – the next BIG thing in data centers

18 Aug 16

For years, data center traffic management has been left squarely on the shoulders of trusty (sometimes) old copper wire. However, its days are certainly numbered as Diane Bryant, executive vice president and general manager of Intel’s Data Center Group announced the news on day two of the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco recently.

“Electrons running over network cables won’t cut it,” Bryant said in her keynote. “Intel has been working on silicon photonics over 16 years. We are the first to light up silicon.”

It is the world’s thirst for cloud services that has driven the innovation behind this new technology, as machine-to-machine traffic in cloud data centers is taking off. The systems inside these facilities have to process more and more data every day, resulting in more data than ever being shifted from server to server.

Cloud service providers are constantly looking for better ways to interconnect servers in their data centers than using copper wires, as they need to achieve the seemingly impossible equation of transferring more data and faster while using less power. Fortunately, these are all things that silicon photonics promises to deliver.

The technology replaces copper wires with optical cables and electrons with light, while using the same manufacturing methods companies use to make processors.

Bryant announced the availability of their first two silicon photonics products: 100G optical transceivers for interconnecting data center network switches. Apparently these laser-based systems are today capable of shifting 100 Gigabits per second over cables up to two kilometers long. Kushagra Vaid, who oversees infrastructure engineering for Microsoft’s cloud, reports you’ll be lucky to send 25Gbps over a 10-foot-long copper cable. Vaid also affirms that silicon photonics is the future of interconnection inside Microsoft’s cloud data centers.

What is exciting is that Intel’s announcement is only the first step in an exciting innovation. The company said that within a few years, the 100G technology will be followed by 400G interconnects for data center switches. While the the first two transceivers simply plug into switch front plates, Intel visions future products that are actually embedded in switch motherboards and eventually integrated with switch silicon itself. 

Data centre cybersecurity actions that most people overlook
Schneider’s Steven Carlini discusses ways to improve data centre cybersecurity that most people don’t think of until it’s too late.
Alibaba Cloud showcases commitment to Hong Kong
The company’s service capability in Hong Kong has doubled since it established its first data centre in the city in 2014.
5 tips to reduce data centre transceiver costs
Keysight Technologies' Nicole Faubert shares her advice on how organisations can significantly reduce test time and cost of next-generation transceivers.
The new world of edge data centre management
Schneider Electric’s Kim Povlsen debates whether the data centre as we know it today will soon cease to exist.
Can it be trusted? Huawei’s founder speaks out
Ren Zhengfei spoke candidly in a recent media roundtable about security, 5G, his daughter’s detainment, the USA, and the West’s perception of Huawei.
SUSE partners with Intel and SAP to accelerate IT transformation
SUSE announced support for Intel Optane DC persistent memory with SAP HANA.
Inspur uses L11 rack level integration to deploy 10,000 nodes in 8 hours
Inspur recently delivered a shipment of rack scale servers of more than 10,000 nodes to the Baidu Beijing Shunyi data center within 8 hours.
How HCI helps enterprises stay on top of data regulations
Increasing data protection requirements will supposedly drive the demand for Hyper-Converged Infrastructure solutions across the globe.