Electronic signaling using copper is officially old-and-busted—or at least Intel thinks it will be soon. The company announced today that it has constructed a silicon-based optical connection with an integrated laser that's capable of moving data at 50Gbps. The term "integrated laser" refers to the fact that the optical data connection is integrated into a microchip and interfaces with that component's circuitry.
According to Intel, its Hybrid Silicon Laser technology has multiple advantages over traditional wires. In addition to the increased bandwidth, optical signals degrade much more slowly than their electrical counterparts. As such, cables can be considerably longer and thinner and individual system components could be isolated and cooled more efficiently. It could also help alleviate server room crowding for much the same reason—non-critical components could be housed further away while the room was reserved for equipment that required its ventilation and cooling capabilities.
Like peanut butter and chocolate--two great flavors in one
"This achievement of the world’s first 50Gbps silicon photonics link with integrated hybrid silicon lasers marks a significant achievement in our long term vision of ‘siliconizing’ photonics and bringing high bandwidth, low cost optical communications in and around future PCs, servers, and consumer devices," Justin Rattner, Intel's Chief Technology Officer and the director of Intel Labs said. This 50GB link is a "concept vehicle" that allows Intel to continue testing new transmission technologies while demonstrating and researching real-world applications. Long term, Intel thinks it might be able to scale its HSL up to terrabit levels, though such performance is years away.
Intel describes the relationship between HSL and Light Peak is as follows:
This research is separate from Intel’s Light Peak technology, though both are components of Intel’s overall I/O strategy. Light Peak is an effort to bring a multi-protocol 10Gbps optical connection to Intel client platforms for nearer-term applications. Silicon Photonics research aims to use silicon integration to bring dramatic cost reductions, reach tera-scale data rates, and bring optical communications to an even broader set of high-volume applications. Today’s achievement brings Intel a significant step closer to that goal.
Sounds great to us. Now where's our flying cars?