The Brave New World of Chip-Level Optical Interconnects

The periphery of most systems contains a number of optical interconnects for connecting between boxes and racks of servers. But optical technologies haven't really penetrated inside the systems – until now. As part of a partnership with DARPA on the UNIC program, Sun is working to develop innovative technologies that will significantly lower the barrier to entry for optics.

Via research in inter-chip optics, (otherwise known as nanophotonic interconnects), Sun is working to solve interconnect problems that arise deep inside the box at the chip level by developing high-density optical interconnects with low power, transmit receipt circuits, and the ability to communicate over much longer distances with lower electrical signaling.

Joining Hal Stern, Vice President of Global Systems Engineering, on this edition of Innovating@Sun are Distinguished Engineers from Sun's Microelectronics Group, Ashok Krishnamoorthy and Jack Cunningham.


The interview includes discussion around:

  • What the UNIC program is
  • Why optical interconnects at a chip-to-chip level is a big deal
  • Improving the density of communication by two to three orders of magnitude
  • Changing the notion of what a wire or interconnect is
  • Bringing signaling to speed-of-light levels
  • Transparently communicating from one chip to another via optical proximity communication
  • Effects on compute density
  • Timeframe for the research/project
  • Possible impacts in relation to Moore's Law

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