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Intel sets sights on "speed of light" Silicon Photonics

Intel has hinted it will launch its Silicon Photonics interconnect technology soon, perhaps even as early as this autumn, ITProPortal can confirm.

At an exclusive London press event this week, Intel's business development director for Silicon Photonics said that the revolutionary technology will launch "in the near future." He refused to pin down a specific fata, but hinted to keep our ears to the ground at the next Intel Developer Forum (IDF) in San Francisco.

According to Demain, Silicon Photonics is a "new era of optics" that will increase the bandwidth in data centre networks and servers alike by replacing copper connections with fibre optics.

By embedding lasers into chips, Silicon Photonics carries light signals of data (hence the "speed of light moniker") in silicon waveguides meaning that optical fibre can replace copper wiring. Consequently, Silicon Photonics can clean up data centre complexity by drastically reducing the amount of cabling needed in a network.

"The problem with current data centres," said Demain, "is that you walk into one and look down a row of servers and you can see the curvature of the Earth. They are so huge."

He claims that widespread adoption of Silicon Photonics will cut down the size of datacentres. Intel has developed silicon chips which can send data much further and at faster speeds than copper. The company than used a simple modular design to work out a way to embed these chips directly on the Motherboard, and has also spent the last few years creating the MXC cable that will link them together.

Demain highlighted Intel's vision for Silicon Photonics technology used both inside the servers and between each server as a connector replacing PCIe and Ethernet. In time, Silicon Photonics could be applied to high performance computing, telecommunications infrastructure and eventually even consumer electronics.

The technology will most likely make its first appearance as part of Intel's Rack Scale Architecture. Keep an eye out for it this September at IDF.