Intel Touts 800Gbps Optical Cables For Data Centres

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Intel to release new networking technology that will transfer data at speeds of up 800Gbps in each direction

Intel and its partners are readying new optical networking capabilities for the data centre, after years of development and testing.

The new technology promises to send data between servers and other systems at significantly higher speeds than copper cables currently do.

Optical Cables

Intel officials, at the Optical Fiber Communications (OFC) 2014 show 11 March, announced that the chip maker – in conjunction with vendors like Corning, Molex, Tyco Electronics and US Conec – will begin rolling out new cables in the second half of 2014 that will transfer data at speeds of up to 800 gigabits per second in each direction (an aggregate of 1.6 terabits per second), much faster than the 10Gbps copper cables typically used in today’s data centres.

optical connectorsIntel introduced its new MXC connector technology that is based on the vendor’s silicon photonics technology, which uses light rather than copper as a way to more quickly send data between systems in the data centre. Corning has been sampling MXC cable assemblies with customers and will be producing them in the third quarter, according to Intel documents.

In addition, US Consec said it will sell MXC connector parts to Corning and other vendors, and Tyco and Molex announced they will build and sell MXC-based cable assemblies. In addition, US Consec has created an MXC certification program.

Optical cables bring a range of benefits over copper-based cables, according to Mario Paniccia, Intel Fellow and general manager of the chip maker’s silicon photonics operations. The optical cables are significantly smaller and can send data at 800Gbps up to 300 meters, a much farther distance than Ethernet.

In a post on the Intel blog, Paniccia said the new MXC product is “not just a simple connector. It is a core building block for optical (or photonic) communications and will help define the way data centres are built in the future. Why should you care? Because it will help serve up all of what you love about the web, apps, and more much, much faster.”

Data Centre Focus

Intel is aiming the technology at a range of data centre systems, from supercomputers and rack-scale server architectures to storage appliance and top-of-rack networking switches, all of which could see significantly better performance with faster interconnects. MXC cables hold up to 64 fibres – 32 fibres for receiving, and another 32 for sending – with each fibre transferring data at 25 Gbps.

In his blog post, Paniccia noted recent examples of Intel’s silicon photonics technology at work. Fujitsu demonstrated the technology could add storage capacity and CPU accelerators to a 1U (1.75-inch) server. In addition, Intel officials are using MXC cables and silicon photonics as a key part of its Rack Space Architecture for the data centre, which offers increased performance and lower costs than traditional data centre racks.

Microsoft – which has more than 1 million servers in its data centres – and the Open Compute Project, headed up by Facebook and dedicated to developing higher performing and more energy-efficient data centre resources, reportedly are testing the MXC-based cables in their facilities.

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Originally published on eWeek.

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