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Cable Technology Feature Article

March 14, 2014

New Intel SuperSpeed Cables Coming at the Speed of Light

By Karen Veazey, TMCnet Contributing Writer

Cables, rack mounts, and CPU fans aren’t sexy, but when you start throwing around words like photonics computing suddenly becomes a lot more interesting; and so it just figures that it would be Intel (News - Alert) and Facebook – harbinger of all things cool – that push the concept into the mainstream.

Photonics isn’t new of course; it’s part of the study of light and goes back, as a technical/scientific field, to the creation of lasers. Everything optical is related to it, including fiber optics, which is widely discussed as a way to boost Internet connection speed. But Intel and Facebook (News - Alert) have been studying the field as the answer to the next big leap in supercomputing by redesigning the data center into modular components of storage, processing, and networking. Pieces could be more easily swapped and moved without trying to untangle and take down full racks for maintenance and repairs.

A big part of the problem with rack structure has been tied to cables, which are bulky, prone to user error, and nothing but a hindrance to heat management. Intel’s research into silicon photonics aims to push more data across fewer cables, using light to push data really, really fast.

Intel debuted their rack structure concept last spring as part of Facebook’s Open Compute Project, and now they’re making the idea more enticing to big data centers with the promise of 800Gbps cables coming later in 2014. They’ve already demonstrated bi-directional speeds up to 100Gbps using eight fibers and their new MXC bundle can hold up to sixty-four fibers.

The fiber was developed in partnership with Corning (News - Alert) and US Conec to create electric-to-optic transmission chains that are currently being customer tested. No word yet on the cost of the new cables but they will be available in configurations between eight and sixty four fibers.

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

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