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Intel brings silicon photonics technology to Facebook's Open Compute Project

16 Jan 2013

SANTA CLARA: Intel is to bring mechanical prototype designs for its silicon photonics technology to the Open Compute Project (OCP), capable of dramatic increases in interconnect speeds.

OCP is a Facebook-led group that promotes open architectures for datacentre designs. The group has been attempting to recruit companies in the datacentre field to give designs to their programme over the past two years.

Intel's effort's with silicon photonics has led the company to create datacentre technology which can produce up to 100Gbit/s interconnects. The technology is said to be fast enough to last multiple processor generations.

"This is the kind of tech that will change the tide by offering faster data speeds in the datacentre. We can build a datacentre with 100 Gbit/s," said chairman of Arista Networks Andy Bechtolsheim, while talking on a panel discussing the benefits of silicon photonics technology.

OCP and Intel's announcement came at the Open Compute Summit IV. The event was started by Facebook engineers two years ago as a way to improve datacentre efficiency through open standard implementations.

Intel has become the latest group to add to the firm's architecture design portfolio. With the new design anyone interested in the available architectures can attempt to improve on Intel's original design.

"Intel's new photonic architecture, based on high-bandwidth, 100Gbit/s Intel silicon photonics technology, that enables fewer cables, increased bandwidth, farther reach and extreme power efficiency compared to today's copper-based interconnects," said Intel's chief technology officer Justin Rattner at the panel.

Silicon photonics technology has been years in the making, and aims to bring faster data transfer speeds to the market.

Intel says the technology has such a low latency that users will be able to take components that once needed to be bound to the motherboard and spread them out through a server rack.

This in turn would mean easier upgradeability inside the datacentre. That coupled with its 100Gbit/s throughput speeds means that the technology can withstand multiple processor generations.

Intel currently has a working prototype that uses silicon photonics technology. The prototype was built by Quanta Computers. Intel also has engineering samples of the technology available.

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James Dohnert

James is a freelance writer and editor. In addition to ClickZ, his work has appeared in publications like V3, The Commonwealth Club,, and Shonen Jump magazine. He studied Journalism at Weber State University.

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