Sunday, March 23, 2008

Sun Awarded DARPA Contract to Develop Microchip Interconnect System

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded Sun Microsystems a $44.29 million funding for a five and a half-year research project focused on microchip interconnectivity via on-chip optical networks.


The project, which is part of DARPA's Ultraperformance Nanophotonic Intrachip Communication program, aims to accelerate the development of lower cost, high performance and high productivity systems using arrays of low-cost chips. The goal is to create high bandwidth, low latency, and low power interconnections between the parallel computing chips in such an array.


Sun said its program combines optical signaling with Proximity Communication, its key chip-to-chip I/O technology, to construct arrays of low-cost chips in a single virtual "macrochip." Such an aggregation of inexpensive chips looks and performs like a single chip of enormous size, thus extending Moore's Law; it also avoids soldered chip connections to enable lower total system cost. Long connections across the macrochip leverage the low latency, high bandwidth, and low power of silicon optics, and through this program Sun and DARPA will research technologies to dramatically further reduce the cost of these optical connections. The result is a virtual supercomputer.


"Optical communications could be a truly game-changing technology -- an elegant way to continue impressive performance gains while completely changing the economics of large-scale silicon production," said Greg Papadopoulos, chief technology officer and executive vice president of research and development for Sun. "Congratulations to Sun Labs and Microelectronics teams for their constructive creativity and for driving innovation into the semiconductor marketplace."http://www.research.sun.com

  • Earlier this month, researchers at IBM announced a nanophotonic switch for routing optical data between cores in future computer chips. Like a long-haul fiber-optic network, such an extremely miniature on-chip network will transmit, receive, and route messages between individual cores that are encoded as a pulses of light. IBM estimates that by using light instead of wires, as much as 100 times more information can be sent between cores, while using 10 times less power and consequently generating less heat.


    The report on this work, entitled “High-throughput silicon nanophotonic wavelength-insensitive switch for on-chip optical networks�? by Yurii Vlasov, William M. J. Green, and Fengnian Xia of IBM's T.J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, N.Y. is published in the April 2008 issue of the journal Nature Photonics. This work was partially supported by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) through the Defense Sciences Office program “Slowing, Storing and Processing Light�?.

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