Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Intel Develops Silicon Photonics for Disaggregated, Rack-Scale Servers

Intel is working with Facebook and the Open Compute Project to develop silicon photonic connectivity for the next generation of disaggregated server racks combing compute, storage and networking resources.

At the Open Compute Summit in Santa Clara, the companies also unveiled a mechanical prototype built by Quanta Computer that includes distributed input/output (I/O) using Intel Ethernet switch silicon.  The design will support the Intel Xeon processor and the next generation, 22 nanometer system-on-chip (SoC) Intel Atom processor, code named "Avoton" late this year.

"Intel and Facebook are collaborating on a new disaggregated, rack-scale server architecture that enables independent upgrading of compute, network and storage subsystems that will define the future of mega-datacenter designs for the next decade," said Justin Rattner, Intel's chief technology officer during his keynote address at Open Computer Summit in Santa Clara, Calif. "The disaggregated rack architecture includes Intel's new photonic architecture, based on high-bandwidth, 100Gbps Intel® Silicon Photonics Technology, that enables fewer cables, increased bandwidth, farther reach and extreme power efficiency compared to today's copper based interconnects."

By disaggregating compute, storage, networking and power distribution into discrete module in a rack, the data center operator gains the flexibility to selectively upgrade or move components as needed.  This provides cost, scalability and speed advantages over traditional, monolithic servers in a box.

"We're excited about the flexibility that these technologies can bring to hardware and how silicon photonics will enable us to interconnect these resources with less concern about their physical placement," said Frank Frankovsky, chairman of the Open Compute Foundation and vice president of hardware design at supply chain at Facebook.

Intel said it will contribute a design for enabling a photonic receptacle to the Open Compute Project (OCP) and will work with Facebook, Corning*, and others over time to standardize the design.

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