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Intel ships first Silicon Photonics products for data centres

Thu 18 Aug 2016

Intel Silicon Photonics

After more than 15 years in research and development, Intel has finally announced the launch of its bandwidth-slimming Silicon Photonics technology.

The final offering, presented at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco, has entered volume production and is now shipping in the form of two 100G optical transceivers.

Head of Intel’s data centre group Diane Bryant said that the the tech giant predicts a future where silicon photonics optical input-output is ‘everywhere in the data centre.’

She explained that the small form-factor, high-speed, and low power consumption chips, will be available in the form of the 100G PSM4 (Parallel Single Mode fibre 4-lane), and the 100G CWDM4 (Coarse Wavelength Division Multiplexing 4-lane).

The chips will transfer data at 100 gigabits per second, which is approximately 100 times faster than a standard home WiFi connection. Over the next few years, Intel confirmed that there will also be a more advanced version which is expected to increase this rate to 400 gigabits per second.

The two new silicon photonics chips have been designed specifically for data communications applications, with a focus on switch-to-switch optical interconnects in data centre environments.

Through the use of Silicon Photonics technology Intel is seeking to boost issues with bandwidth, density, weight, and energy efficiency, which currently limit infrastructure. A typical setup today runs on copper cabling which hits a top transfer rate of 25Gbps.

Silicon Photonics takes advantage of the manufacturing scale and capabilities offered by silicon, and the power of light, to create a single optimised chip. Researchers believe that the technology could support the development of silicon-based components able to transmit and receive optical signals – enabling movement of large amounts of information at high speeds, over long distances.

Intel has argued that the advancement will ‘address the cabling nightmare’ in data centres, as well as improving power and cost efficiencies.


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