Parallel optical interconnect from Picolight and IBM triples data rates to 120 Gbits/sec over existing ribbon fiber

March 24, 2003
March 24, 2003--Picolight Inc. and IBM have demonstrated a technology that they claim sets a new standard for bandwidth density of data transmission between servers, routers, switches, and cross-connect equipment. The thumb-sized SNAP12 modules operate at a full 10 Gbits/sec per channel over standard 12-fiber ribbon to more than triple the performance of today's 12-channel transmit/receive modules, they contend.

March 24, 2003--Picolight Inc. and IBM have demonstrated a technology that they claim sets a new standard for bandwidth density of data transmission between servers, routers, switches, and cross-connect equipment. The thumb-sized SNAP12 modules operate at a full 10 Gbits/sec per channel over standard 12-fiber ribbon to more than triple the performance of today's 12-channel transmit/receive modules, they contend.

Picolight and IBM's parallel optical interconnect technology solves the critical backplane bottleneck in high-throughput systems currently used in enterprise and storage area networks, points of presence, central offices, large data centers and wide-area network hubs. The technology could allow processors to be more tightly coupled, making server architectures more flexible and allowing servers to better handle varying workloads.

The joint technology combines 12 x 10 Gbit/sec parallel optics from Picolight and IBM's 12-channel laser driver integrated circuit (IC) to achieve more than 120 Gbits/sec of aggregate interconnect capacity across existing fiber, enabling seamless upgrades to existing systems. The module occupies approximately one square inch of board space, the same as current 12-channel, 40-Gbit/sec links, and provides unprecedented bandwidth density as measured in Gbits/sec per square inch and Gbits/sec per watt. Enabling a terabit per second of full-duplex communication in less than 10 front-panel inches, the technology shows the future path of optical interconnects for parallel computing, and core switching and routing at reaches up to 300 meters, say representatives for both companies.

"This technology not only sets a new benchmark for short-range optical bandwidth density but also for the requisite test infrastructure," contends Modest Oprysko, department group manager for communication technologies, IBM Research. "It is becoming increasingly difficult to provide the requisite bandwidth density using copper links get to 10-Gbit/sec data rates and lengths of 10 meters. We believe that 10 Gbits/sec per channel data rates is a threshold for considering the use of optics in high aggregate databus links in high performance systems, and this technology will help jumpstart the industry. This technology also outpaced the test equipment market, so IBM had to build our own test equipment to test and validate the simultaneous performance of all 12 optical channels," he adds.

"By combining our standard 10 Gbps laser and parallel module packaging technologies with IBM's silicon germanium VCSEL driver circuits, we have achieved unprecedented bandwidth density," explains Jack Jewell, founder and chief technical officer of Picolight Inc. "The 12 x 10-Gbit/sec format provides a more reliable alternative to low-speed, high-channel-count solutions using up to 48 channels to achieve the same throughput. Greater bandwidth density will become increasingly important with the advent of 4-Gbit/sec disk I/O speeds and 10-Gbit/sec storage area networks that create the need for 10-Gbit/sec router and switch platforms using smaller fiber-optic transceivers."

The first public demonstration of the technology will be conducted this week at the Optical Fiber Communications Conference in Atlanta, GA. For the demonstration, Picolight has used 10-Gbit/sec VCSEL technology to triple per-channel density. The combination of Picolight's 12 x 10 Gbit/sec parallel optics and IBM's 12-channel laser driver IC delivers 60 Gbits/sec per square inch of bandwidth density.

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