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Intel: 1.6Tbps Silicon Photonics Tech Gets Industry Support

By - Source: Intel

Intel has announced a significant increase of industry support for silicon photonics interconnect technology. US Conec, Corning, Molex and TE Connectivity have already begun development on MXC cabling products based on Intel's Silicon Photonics technology, but so far the technology has been a wonderful idea for the past year, nothing more. This latest announcement from Intel moves the idea one step closer to becoming an actuality.

MXC interconnect technology is exciting for several reasons, the most obvious being data transmission speed. MXC cables can carry up to 64 fibers per cable. With each fiber transmitting 24Gbps, that amounts to a total transmission speed of 1.6Tbps. The cables can stretch 300 meters without signal degradation.

There are also more practical reasons for using MXC cables over the modern standard optical cable. MXC cables are simply smaller and require fewer individual parts to use; Intel claims the design makes the cables 10 times more dust resistant; and Corning's ClearCurve optical fiber technology allows the cables to bend around tighter curves.

Earlier versions of 50G Silicon Photonic transmitter (left) and receiver (right) modules. Image courtesy of Intel.Earlier versions of 50G Silicon Photonic transmitter (left) and receiver (right) modules. Image courtesy of Intel.Without support from other companies Intel's initiative could easily be a flop. Luckily, several companies have begun to show their support for the new technology. US Conec has begun development of MXC connector parts that will eventually be sold to cable companies; and Corning, Molex and TE Connectivity have announced plans for MXC connector cable assemblies.

Microsoft has also joined the mix, becoming part of the MXC Adopters Forum. "We believe that MXC along with Intel® Silicon Photonics will be instrumental in shaping next generation high performance data center architectures. We look forward to working with Intel and open standards bodies like OCP [Open Core Protocol] to accelerate information sharing and industry adoption," says Kushagra Vaid, General Manager of Cloud Server Engineering at Microsoft.

Intel has also shown off a new rack architecture concept called Rack Scale Architecture (RSA). RSA would utilize silicon photonics to turn server racks into smaller groups of compute, storage and memory, creating a more manageable data center.

However, there is one looming issue Intel has yet to discuss. More than likely, silicon photonic technology will be quite expensive, and if the price of the new tech doesn't steadily decrease over time, Intel's MXC cables are more likely to fill a niche in data centers rather than completely replace the copper standard.

For more information on Silicon Photonics and MXC, visit