A prototype optical chip IBM is demonstrating could be a boon for data centers and supercomputing environments looking for ways to speed up data transfer rates.
IBM researchers continue to work with light in hopes of
solving challenges in the rapidly evolving tech world. The latest example is a
new prototype optical chip that they say can transmit up to 1 terabits per
second of data, a number that could have huge implications in enterprise data
centers and supercomputing environments.
The Holey Optochip, which IBM researchers will present March
8 at the Optical Fiber Communications Conference in Los Angeles, offers a boost
in bandwidth that would mean, at 1T bps, the ability to download 500
high-definition movies. It would take about an hour to transmit the entire
Library of Congress Web archive through the chip, according to IBM.
IBM scientists created the Holey Otpochip by taking a
standard 90-nanometer CMOS chip and putting 48 holes in it. The holes allow
optical access through the back of the chip to 24 receiver and 24 transmitter
channels, according to IBM. The result, the scientists said, is a very compact,
high-performing and highly energy-efficient optical module that promises
bandwidth speeds to handle the rapidly growing amount of data traffic that is
being created and run through both corporate and consumer networks.
of the Holey Optochip is the latest step by IBM scientists in leveraging optics
to address modern computing challenges, according to Big Blue researcher Clint
Schow, who was part of the team that created the prototype.
Reaching the 1 trillion bit-per-second mark
with the Holey Optochip marks IBM's latest milestone to develop chip-scale
transceivers that can handle the volume of traffic in the era of big data,
Schow said in a statement. We have been actively pursuing higher levels of
integration, power efficiency and performance for all the optical components
through packaging and circuit innovations.
IBM and other vendors are looking to optics as a way of
speeding up transfer rates of data. Using light pulses is faster than sending
electrons over wires, according to Big Blue researchers, who said they are
continuing to look for ways to leverage optical signals for products that are cost-efficient
and can be manufactured at high enough volumes so that they can be widely used.
The Holey Optochip fits with that idea, according to IBM. The
chip is made with components that are commercially available today, offering
the promise that the chip could be manufactured at very high volumes and made
Its also energy-efficient, they said. The transceiver
consumes less than 5 watts, which means the power used by a 100-watt light bulb
could power 20 Holey Optochips. All this is important for businesses that may
need to create high-performance computing environments, but need to keep power
costs contained while running such powerful applications as analytics, data
modeling and forecasting.
IBM researchers said the Holey Optochip is the latest proof
that high-speed, low-power interconnects are possible in the near-term. They
also argued that optical transmission is the only way that the tech field can
keep ahead of the huge global demand for broadband, and the rise of such
computing trends as big data and cloud computing.
IBM hopes to improve the technologywith the aim of making it
commercially availableover the next decade. The work will be done in
collaboration with Big Blues manufacturing partners.