Intel Silicon Photonics 100Gbps Network Modules Now Shipping For Next Gen Datacenters

Intel Diane Bryant With Silicon Photonics Module
Intel's Diane Bryant Holds Up New Silicon Photonics Module At IDF Day 2 Keynote

The Vice President and General Manager of Intel's Data Center Group (DCG), Diane Bryant, took to the stage at IDF 2016 in San Francisco this morning to showcase various technologies that the company has developed to enable the next-generation data center, which will be a vital part of tomorrow's 5G networks. With massive amounts of data being created, stored and accessed from millions of end points -- from the IoT to machine learning and machine vision-enabled devices -- the disaggregated data center of tomorrow will need lighting fast access and copious bandwidth. To that end, Intel has finally given birth to an important enabler for data centers of tomorrow: a Silicon Photonics transceiver module capable of transmitting data in excess of 100Gbps.

Intel has been working on the technology for years, but is now shipping the devices to customers for testing and implementation across the globe. The current iteration of the technology can transfer at 100Gbps data rates at distances of over a mile via fiber-optic cable, creating an ultra-high speed link from server rack to rack and also between data centers, for network performance that blows legacy copper interconnects right out of the water. 

Microsoft Silicon Photonics In Azure Datacenter Apps

As you might imagine, cloud infrastructure providers like Amazon, Google and Microsoft will likely be quick to adopt the technology for latency and bandwidth sensitive software as a service (SaS) applications and the like. Microsoft's General Manager of Cloud Engineering, Kushagra Vaid joined Intel's Bryant on stage to speak to the company's existing bottlenecks for Microsoft Azure cloud services and how braking through the 100Gbps wall is a game-changer. The company has been working with the technology in its Azure data centers for some time. 

Microsoft Silicon Photonics In Azure Datacenter Apps2
Intel Silicon Photonics uses patterned silicon to transmit and receive fiber optic network transmissions and the hope one day is to build the technology directly into processor designs such that direct connect to fiber networks is possible as well. The technology is built very much like Intel's standard CMOS silicon chips and Bryant aptly noted: "Electrons running over copper network cables won’t cut it. We are the first to light up silicon.” And indeed the technology is a data center breakthrough that will enable a level of connectivity and throughput previously unheard of. 

Competitors like IBM and others have been working in various silicon photonics technologies for years, but Intel seems poised to roll-out the technology on a large scale very soon, providing a solution that will surely help as a synergistic foothold for the company in the data center and cloud services markets.