Intel announced a prototype technology today capable of moving data at 50 Gbps, comparable to sending an entire HD movie in one second – foreshadowing faster, longer data connections that could be revolutionary for consumers and data center users.
The prototype represents an important advance in Intel’s research into silicon photonics – using lasers instead of electrons to send data – which the company has been working on for years. Intel hopes to scale up the technology until it reaches speeds close to a terabit per second – fast enough to transfer a copy of the entire contents of a typical laptop in one second, the company said.
Data transmission speeds over wire-based connections are limited by bandwidth and distance. Intel turned to silicon-based photonic devices in order to transcend these physical limitations and continue to make more powerful chips.
With the new process, electrical signals are translated into light at different-colored wavelengths, which are combined and travel down a single fiber. Then the light is separated back into wavelengths and converted back to electrons. The speeds are so high that processors, memory and other computer components will no longer need to be placed inches from each other, implying vastly different computer designs in the future, the company said.
Image courtesy Intel
“Tomorrow’s datacenter or supercomputer may see components spread throughout a building or even an entire campus, communicating with each other at high speed, as opposed to being confined by heavy copper cables with limited capacity and reach,” according to Intel’s press release.
Such quantitative increases in the power of data transmission could lead to qualitative changes in the way we use computers and the web. From telepresence to large data set distribution and analysis, the use cases are only beginning to be imagined. “At these data rates, one could imagine a wall-sized 3D display for home entertainment and videoconferencing with a resolution so high that the actors or family members appear to be in the room with you,” Intel said.
What would you do with that much bandwidth? From telepresence to the distribution and analysis of large data sets, the use cases are only beginning to be imagined. Light-based bandwidth could be a platform for a whole new world of such innovations we didn’t even know we wanted, although we may soon find out – the technology may be available as soon as five years from now, Intel said.