Intel Corporation To Speed Up Supercomputers Using Light Beams

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Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC) will enhance the speed of transferring data in supercomputers next year through light pulses, which will supposedly be a major advancement in high-performance computing, reports PC World. The new technology will use optical cables to transfer data at a higher speed, abandoning the traditional copper wiring used for connecting computing and storage units. Also overall system performance will be better when data runs at higher speed.

Optical technology important for Intel

Charlie Wuischpard, vice president and general manager of Intel’s workstations and high-performance computing division, said that if all compute nodes are linked through photonics, it gives application performance a different look. As of now, light pulses are used for power-efficient and high-speed data transfers over communications networks and now are gradually making their way into PCs and data centers.

Intel will deploy its thunderbolt technology to connect computers and peripherals such as external hard drives at around 20 Gbps. The chip maker has also come up with an optical connector called MXC that can enable the transfer of data of up to 1.6 TBps between servers.

For Intel, optical technology holds more importance, as it is key to surpassing the milestone of exascale computing, in which supercomputer performance is higher than 1 exaflop, or a million trillion calculations per second. Intel is envisioning one exaflop supercomputer by 2020 to 2022 that can fit in a 20-megawatt a center. Tianhe-2, the fastest computer in the world, gives a peak performance of 33.86 petaflops.

Other tech firms also exploring the technology

Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst at Insight 64, said that optics will enhance performance by bringing down power consumption, which is higher when signals are transferred through various cabinets, storage units and racks of the supercomputer. According to the analyst, one of the major tasks is to build optical interfaces at a reasonable cost, but Intel has found a viable solution to link transmitters and receivers to systems.

“Silicon photonics is technology whose time is coming,” Brookwood said.

Intel did not reveal further details on the protocol that will be used for optical data transfers. Wuischpard said that more information will be revealed in the coming days. Apart from Intel, other companies are also exploring optical technology as well. Companies like International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE:IBM) are researching optics for on-chip communication between transistors, an area in which Intel has not expressed its views.

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