[TBT] Intel’s Laser Chips Poised to Speed Things Up

[Editor’s Note] Since this blog was originally published, it appears Intel has not done much with the “laser chips”. Interestingly, IBM was recently in the news for their own advancements in this area.

Originally Published: September 26,2013

Laser Chips

By design, the microchip has served us well over the past four decades. It has been upgraded, re-sized, re-thought, minimized and reset numerous times over every platform of computing device. But if it were up to Intel, the humble microchip will soon be replaced by what many are calling a silicon chip with optical technology to allow a new form of super fast data connection. Something that is referred to as a “photonic,” which essentially will replace electronic signals with lasers and other optical components.

According to Intel’s ex-CTO,Justin Rattner, “[the chip] is a 100-gigabit-per-second transceiver… We use conventional CMOS [chip] fabrication techniques to actually build the lasers into the chip.” In addition, the connector, which Intel teamed up with Corning to make, “has the ability to go to 1.6 terabits per second.” By comparison, the most recent release of USB can only move data at about five gigabits per second. Intel will make its new technology available for use mostly in data centers where connecting servers that run at optimum speed is most important. There, they will replace the current PCI-E cables that run at about 40 gigabits per second.

The current form of the chip was molded from feedback by Facebook, Microsoft, and Rackspace, who have agreed to make use of it once it becomes available. Where, once it is available, could help to reduce computing costs by replacing up to 10 of the existing clunky PCI-E copper cables that connect stacked servers, as well as reduce heat build up, given that about half of data center’s costs are tied to cooling. With no official announcement date for mass production, look for new laser chips to advance on the market within the next year.

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