IBM Unveils Optic Data Center Chip for Big Data Workloads

Big Blue developed a new piece of silicon that integrates the electrical circuits found in processors, servers and other data center equipment with optical components that can deliver much faster connectivity than its traditional counterparts.

The new technology is called “silicon nanophotonics” and can deliver speeds of up to 25 Gbps per channel by converting electrical signals to light pulses and vice versa.

“This technology breakthrough is a result of more than a decade of pioneering research at IBM,” Dr. John E. Kelly, Senior Vice President and Director of IBM Research said. “This allows us to move silicon nanophotonics technology into a real-world manufacturing environment that will have impact across a range of applications.”

IBM boasts that the 90nm semiconductor architecture is both bleeding edge and viable from a business and technical standpoint. Chipsets based on the technology can be manufactured using existing equipment found today in semiconductor foundries, and multiple optic streams can be integrated into a single terabyte-scale fiber to support large scale analytical environments. The latter will certainly prove to be the more exciting feature.

There’s been a lot of innovation going on the semiconductor industry.  Earlier this week yesterday, which specializes in making communications chips, unveiled a new platform that supports not three but four protocols: NFC, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and FM radio.  The BCM43341  mobile chipset is similar to IBM’s optic silicon in that it’s practical: the solution costs less than the combined price of a triple-combo device and a bolted-on NFC component.

Broadcom is looking to increase the adoption of what may become tomorrow’s de facto payment and content sharing protocol by making it cheap and convenient, the exact same thing IBM is doing with optic communications.