Intel to put photonics in the motherboard

Intel has announced that it is taking the first steps to replace electrical wires inside the motherboard with super-fast photonics.

According to Computerworld , Intel’s silicon photonic technology will be implemented at the motherboard and rack levels and use light to move data between storage, networking and computing resources.

The advantage is that light is lot faster than any copper and will never be caught if it comes to a straight run.

Justin Rattner, Intel’s chief technology officer, told the Open Compute Summit in Santa Clara, California that silicon photonics technology will be part of a new generation of servers. These, he says, will need much faster networking, storage and processing subsystems.

Intel is making the technology with the server maker Quanta and is showing a prototype server rack architecture that is capable of moving data using optical modules.

At the heart of it all is an Intel silicon switch which supports the chip maker’s Xeon and Atom server chips.

It has taken Intel boffins more than a decade to come up with the technology, Rattner said.  It means that communication could take place at speeds of 100Gbps, if anyone needs to talk that fast. It also means that data is transferred at much high speeds while using lesser power compared to copper cables. Power supplies and fans could be consolidated in a data centre, reducing component costs, he added.

Chipzilla has made silicon photonics modules that can transfer data at 100Gbps, and these are being offered to a few clients for testing.

Rattner thinks that once the servers hit the streets they could redefine server designs. High-speed bandwidth, processing and storage units could be decoupled from servers and stored in separate boxes. Once the infrastructure with silicon photonics is in place, server designs could change even more, Rattner said.

One of the early guinea pigs involved in the test is the social not-working site Facebook.  It is attempting to come up with new server technologies that will lead to the decoupling of computing, networking and storage.

The idea is that the processor, switch and other modules need to work together on power management, protocol support, load balancing and handshakes to make high-speed data transfers possible, Rattner added.