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Jan 28th, 2013
Intel, FaceBook team to move photonics into data centers
Intel Corp. is collaborating with Facebook to define the next generation of rack technologies used to move huge amounts of information through the world's largest data centers, the companies announced this week at the Open Compute Summit in Santa Clara.
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Fig 1: A 50-Gb/s silicon photonics transmit module.
Fig 1: A 50-Gb/s silicon photonics transmit module.

Their approach is based on Intel's silicon photonics technology, which uses light to move data at very high speeds over optical fiber rather than electrical signals through a copper cable. Also as part of their collaboration, they unveiled a prototype that will "open source" Intel's silicon photonics.

"Intel and Facebook are collaborating on a new disaggregated, rack-scale server architecture that enables independent upgrading of compute, network and storage subsystems that will define the future of mega-datacenter designs for the next decade," said Justin Rattner, Intel's chief technology officer, in his keynote address. "Rack disintegration" refers to the separation of resources that currently exist in a rack, including compute, storage, networking and power distribution, into discrete modules. Separating compute and storage resources in a server rack can save businesses with large data centers a significant amount of money because it adds flexibility to the system and makes it more easily upgradable — increasing its life span — and reliable.

Fig 1: A 50-Gb/s silicon photonics transmit module (left) sends laser light from the silicon chip at the center of the green board, which then travels through optical fiber to the receiver module (right), where a second silicon chip detects the data on the laser and converts it back into an electrical signal. Courtesy of Intel.


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