Intel says it has begun volume shipments of 100-Gbps PSM4 optical transceivers that leverage its long-awaited silicon photonics technology. The company also is sampling silicon photonics optical modules based on the CWDM4 and CLR4 multi-source agreements (MSAs). Both devices are going to Tier 1 cloud service providers and OEMs, according to Alexis Björlin, vice president of the Intel Data Center Group and general manager if the company's Connectivity Group.
Intel, alongside IBM and such startups as Skorpios, has pursued a silicon photonics strategy in which it integrates the III-V material necessary to create and detect light into a CMOS based wafer structure. The company made a splash last year, implying that the technology was ready for primetime. Yet Intel was surprisingly quiet at this year's OFC.
However, it appears Intel has overcome whatever bumps in the road to commercialization and manufacturability the company may have encountered. Björlin deflected a question on any major challenges Intel had encountered reaching this milestone.
With 100 Gbps nearly conquered, Björlin says the company has set its sights on emerging 400 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) applications. Intel expects to have pluggable 400GbE optical transceivers available in the 2018/2019 timeframe. Björlin also expects Intel to offer an embedded 400G and 800G product in the same timeframe. She envisions an integrated optical I/O capability for semiconductors to make its debut sometime around 2020.
Björlin said that the company wasn't prepared to discuss plans to support other emerging high-speed Ethernet standards, such as 200 Gbps. She added the company also isn't yet discussing publicly whether it will offer the silicon photonics subassemblies as a separate product.
While the company also offers 10- and 40-Gbps transceivers already, the release of the silicon photonics enabled modules could be considered Intel's second major foray into optical communications devices. The company acquired tunable laser, transponder, and related expertise in the early 2000s to create the Optical Platform Division. It then sold the telecom-focused portion of that division's assets to EMCORE in 2007 (see "EMCORE to buy telecom portions of Intel's Optical Platform Division"), then the enterprise assets to EMCORE in a separate transaction in April 2008.
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