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IBM claims 100Gbit/s networking breakthrough

21 Feb 2013

Researchers with IBM have introduced a new set of networking components which could enable internet connection speeds to hit the 100Gbit/s barrier.

The company said that its prototype analogue to digital converter (ADC) system could dramatically speed up the process of receiving analog and converting them into the binary data used for compute functions.

By speeding up the conversion process, IBM researchers hope to eliminate a critical bottleneck which had been impeding the growth of big data platforms and scientific computation tasks which require the transmission of large volumes of data.

"Most of the ADCs on the market today weren’t designed to handle the massive big data applications we are dealing with today," said IBM Research systems department manager Martin Schmatz.

"It's the equivalent of funnelling water through a straw from a fire hose."

IBM said that the converters, which were co-designed by the Swiss EPFL institute, use a 33nm CMOS fabrication process, resulting in smaller, more efficient ADC unit which is capable of converting up to one billion bits of data per second.

IBM said that the new ADCs could be produced in sufficient quantities for release as early as next year. Initial applications for the converters would include high-performance computing and scientific research applications such as the analysis of data collected by radio telescope arrays.

Though the components would initially be limited to high-performance installations, the company noted that the converters would have practical applications for business and consumer devices such as set top boxes and cable modems.

Such advances in network components should prove vital in the coming years as data loads and digital consumption increase. Researchers have projected that Europe in particular will see a deluge of new data demands as big data and cloud computing systems grow in popularity.

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Shaun Nichols

Shaun Nichols is the US correspondent for He has been with the company since 2006, originally joining as a news intern at the site's San Francisco offices.

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