Not to be upstaged by Microsofts WinHEC conference, Intel Corp. on Wednesday showed off some of its current research on advanced technology that will start finding its way into products over the next two to six years.
Leading the way were development projects for optical microprocessor interconnects to accelerate processing, wireless sensor networks and server-network I/O acceleration; and new wireless communication handsets for commercial and consumer applications.
Intel is investigating the feasibility of optical chip-to-chip connections because researchers estimate that over the next seven to 10 years, bus speed between microprocessors and chipsets will exceed 12 GHz, pushing the limits of the copper interconnections that have always been used in the industry.
Signal attenuation, distortions, reflections and crosstalk will limit the bandwidths that copper interconnections can handle on motherboard installations, researchers said.
Optical electronics will overcome this limit and allow interconnections to continue to scale up in speed and size. Intel researchers displayed a demonstration unit to show how a semiconductor laser array and a photodiode array, along with a CMOS transceiver chip and polymer optical waveguides, could be assembled on a standard chip-set package to support optical chip-to-chip communication.
Other research is seeking ways to speed up network server I/O at a time when Ethernet bandwidth is reaching 10 G-bits. Data packet handling has remained efficient because CPU speed, memory device speed and cache architecture have forestalled performance bottlenecks.
But the astronomical amount of TCP/IP data transmitted over the Internet—and the ever-expanding implementation of Web services, sensor networks and radio frequency identification (RFID)—means that sheer packet volume could soon start to degrade server and data-center performance.