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Intel Technology

Intel Demos Optical Data Transfer For Servers 71

Posted by samzenpus
from the beam-of-light dept.
angry tapir writes "Intel is taking the first steps to implement thin fiber optics that will use lasers and light as a faster way to move data inside computers, replacing the older and slower electrical wiring technology found in most computers today. Intel's silicon photonics technology will be implemented at the motherboard and rack levels and use light to move data between storage, networking and computing resources. The new rack architecture with silicon photonics is a result of more than a decade of research in Intel's laboratories, Intel CTO Justin Rattner said. It could enable communication at speeds of 100Gbps and transfer data at high speeds while using less power than copper cables. The technology could also consolidate power supplies and fans in a data center, reducing component costs."
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Intel Demos Optical Data Transfer For Servers

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  • by c0lo (1497653) on Thursday January 17, 2013 @06:36AM (#42614961)
    Is this "good-bye OEM motherboards"?
    • by gl4ss (559668) on Thursday January 17, 2013 @06:55AM (#42615035) Homepage Journal

      why? it's not like oem manufacturers do their chipsets today..

    • by zixxt (1547061)

      Is this "good-bye OEM motherboards"?

      Maybe.. Intel has done just as much damage to the hobbyist computer culture as Microsoft or Apple has maybe even more.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Pale Dot (2813911)

        Is this "good-bye OEM motherboards"?

        Maybe.. Intel has done just as much damage to the hobbyist computer culture as Microsoft or Apple has maybe even more.

        Why? Intel has been very supportive of the most popular hobbyist OS, Linux!

      • by CajunArson (465943) on Thursday January 17, 2013 @08:57AM (#42615459) Journal

        Oh yes, Intel's reign of terror that includes foisting tens of millions of systems that can easily boot practically any version of Linux and their insidious plot to use standardized system interconnects has truly ushered in an age of darkness from which the world will never recover. Don't even get me started on their insidious projects where they infiltrate the Linux kernel with completely open-sourced GPL'd graphics drivers! Truly they should all be put up on war crimes charges!

        Now excuse me while I return to my secret resistance base where we are attempting to load updated ROMs on our Android phones. One of these weeks we'll download the right set of magic files & instructions from some random forum and hopefully not permanently brick the phone in the process. Only ARM can save us hobbyists from the tyranny of well documented and easily modified computing systems!

        • by sa666_666 (924613)

          The sarcasm is strong with this one :)

        • I know you're being funny but I think if you look at long term trends DRM has become more entrenched in the software world and small incremental changes on the hardware front and pressure from software industry/government to 'lock down' software, it could very well happen.

          More and more new PC games lately have been MMO's, or a variations there-of. To think "It couldn't happen here" is naive at best given the attack on software and digital content ownership on multiple fronts.

      • Need a new hobby other then building obsolete shoebox computers.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      No no.. it's "HELLO to endless lifetime service contract with intel."

      (captcha:bastards. wow thats weird. captcha can see the future)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Don't electrical pulses along a copper wire go at the speed of light already?

    I can see various advantages of course, but my meager knowledge of the subject suggests one of the main barriers is the encoding schemes for pushing bits about, and not the physical substance that the signals travel on per se.

    • Re:but (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 17, 2013 @06:51AM (#42615019)

      copper wires cause electromagnetic interference. Every single copper wire at those frequencies start to act as an antenna which causes problems. Light does not have this problem hence you can work with way much higher frequencies.

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It is not the speed but the bandwidth that is used. Light wavelengths don't cause interference like electronics do.

    • First of all, speed of light in one medium differs from speed of light in another. So yeah, probably there is some immeasurably small difference in speed of signal in copper and glass. But of course main difference comes from interference and heating - you can pack more channels of information running much higher frequencies in the same space. Plus there may be some speed gain from changing electronic elements with optronic ones (standard transistor can change its state only this fast - maybe optronic equiv
    • by Anonymous Coward

      No, only light travels at the speed of light in a vacuum. EM signals in matter travel slower than light. In a typical coax, it's 60% of the speed of light in a vacuum ("c"). The bandwidth of fiber optics is higher. The real question is, is that data worth this effort?

      • by dfghjk (711126)

        Light IS an "EM signal". If light only travelled at the "speed of light in a vacuum" there would no need to qualify the speed of light with "in a vacuum".

        AC does it again.

    • Pushing bits in a more packing way is of course important, but latency matters too. Optical circuits are more responsive.
    • Re:but (Score:5, Informative)

      by smpoole7 (1467717) on Thursday January 17, 2013 @09:05AM (#42615503) Homepage

      > Don't electrical pulses along a copper wire go at the speed of light already?

      That's not the problem, it's propagation effects and timing issues. As someone else here pointed out, these high-frequency signals are essentially radio waves and behave like radio waves. You have interference issues from other, nearby signals. The copper traces on your current motherboard must be carefully routed and kept at equal lengths (because they're essentially transmission lines), or you'll have some bits arriving later than others. Chaos. Using optical eliminates that problem.

      (This is also why, if you've ever tried to repair a damaged motherboard, you probably weren't successful. Even if you could successfully identify all the damaged traces -- not easy, what with the "sandwich" layered design -- when you use little jumper wires to bridge the gaps, it just won't work reliably.)

      By the way, these propagation effects are the reason why (counter intuitively) SATA and USB can more easily be made faster than older-style parallel connections. Once you get into the 100 megabit range, interference and the precise arrival time of the parallel bits becomes very hard to control. If it's a bit stream, even though it's several orders of magnitude faster, it's just easier to predict and control.

      • by smpoole7 (1467717)

        (A pedantic self-correction: it would be more accurate to say that the copper traces must be "controlled" lengths, rather than "equal." I was thinking "equal" in terms of a single, discrete data buss.)

      • By the way, these propagation effects are the reason why (counter intuitively) SATA and USB can more easily be made faster than older-style parallel connections. Once you get into the 100 megabit range, interference and the precise arrival time of the parallel bits becomes very hard to control. If it's a bit stream, even though it's several orders of magnitude faster, it's just easier to predict and control.

        Then you have the likes of PCIe which make multiple serial links with indepdendent bit timing control then have a block of logic that synchronises and combines the bitstreams to make a higher bandwidth link.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Lasers and LEDs age. Does anyone knows whats would be the life of these "optical chips"?

  • The speed of the medium could be similar or faster to copper one, while there are no heat nor interference, but, what about the convertion between electrical and optical information? That could slow down things, induce heat, limit bandwidth or require more power? And there is that little factor called cost.
  • not new (Score:5, Interesting)

    by thoper (838719) on Thursday January 17, 2013 @07:46AM (#42615169)

    relevant wikipedia:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photonic_computing [wikipedia.org]
    A claimed advantage of optics is that it can reduce power consumption, but an optical communication system will typically use more power over short distances than an electronic one. This is because the shot noise of an optical communication channel is greater than the thermal noise of an electrical channel which, from information theory, means that more signal power is required to achieve the same data capacity. However, over longer distances and at greater data rates, the loss in electrical lines is sufficiently large that optical communications will comparatively use a lower amount of power. As communication data rates rise, this distance becomes longer and so the prospect of using optics in computing systems becomes more practical.

    and a more interesting article from 2010.
    http://phys.org/news199470370.html [phys.org]

    Today computer components are connected to each other using copper cables or traces on circuit boards. Due to the signal degradation that comes with using metals such as copper to transmit data, these cables have a limited maximum length. This limits the design of computers, forcing processors, memory and other components to be placed just inches from each other. Today's research achievement is another step toward replacing these connections with extremely thin and light optical fibers that can transfer much more data over far longer distances, radically changing the way computers of the future are designed and altering the way the datacenter of tomorrow is architected.

  • I'm sure that Intel called this "Light Peak" initially, when they demonstrated it two years ago.
  • If there arn't LEDs spread throughout the interconnect that flash randomly during operation, then how am I supposed to accept that this is the future in server technology?

  • 100Gbps is inadequate today for a core system interconnect.

    You can buy 100Gbps NETWORK interfaces (although, obviously not for your desktop PC, because, as per above THE BUS IS TOO SLOW)

    I'll say it again, releasing technology to deliver 100Gbps interconnects at the system core is holding back innovation TODAY, not "in the future" - TODAY FOLKS!
    • by timeOday (582209)
      Getting technology that was only available in a $60,000 router into my PC at an affordable price is what I'd call progress. The article says Intel had optical Thunderbolt at CES. I would be delighted if I could run a $50, 50m fiber to extend consoles to different parts of my house instead of having 3 PCs running 24/7. (Of course PCs themselves are getting so cheap and power efficient that the race is still on...)

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