Silicon photonics will revolutionize data centers in 2015

Data centers are morphing into computing singularities, albeit large ones. Silicon photonics will hasten that process. The reason why begins with Moore’s Law.

Gordon Moore’s prediction known as Moore’s Law — “The number of transistors incorporated in a chip will approximately double every 24 months.” — has been uncanny in its accuracy since he made it in April 1965. That didn’t stop pundits from saying Moore’s Law had a nice run, but like all good things, it was coming to an end. The pundits’ prediction was erroneous, thanks to Intel (the company Moore co-founded). The reason is light, or more accurately photons.

Moore’s Law requires scientists and engineers to continually figure out how to pack larger quantities of transistors and support circuitry into chips. It’s a challenge, but not as difficult as figuring out what to do about the by-products of shoving electricity through an ever-more dense population of chips: heat buildup, current leakage, and crosstalk between adjacent wire traces.

Multi-core technology breathed new life into Moore’s Law, but only for a short time. Using copper wires to transmit the digital information becomes the limiting factor. This MIT Technology Review 2005 article explains why copper wires were no longer good enough. “The problem is that electrical pulses traveling through a copper wire encounter electrical resistance, which degrades the information they carry,” states author Robert Service. “As a result, data bits traveling through copper must be spaced far enough apart and move slowly enough that devices on the other end of the wire can pick them up.” Read more…


Image courtesy of Intel

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