Intel to Talk About Next-Generation 1.6Tb/s Optical Interconnections for Servers Next Month

Intel to Discuss MXC Optical Interconnection Technology at IDF in September

by Anton Shilov
08/15/2013 | 10:50 PM

It is not a secret that Intel Corp. is working on high-speed optical interconnections for next-generation servers and datacenters and is teaming up with a number of industry leaders, such as Corning, Facebook and Quanta. What was not unknown until very recently is that the draft spec of the technology seems to be ready. At the upcoming Intel Developer Forum the company will start talking about the tech.


According to a description of a session at IDF 2013, Intel started working with Corning Cable Systems to design a brand new optical connector called MXC, using silicon photonics and a new fiber technology. The MXC technology can carry up to 1.6Tb/s per lane and its connector is smaller than the connectors used today. The new fiber technology is called Corning ClearCurve LW and it will allow optical signals to go over 300 meters at 25Gb/s.

Current optical connectors used in data centers are based on a design from the mid-1980s. While they are faster than traditional electrical wires, the world today needs higher speeds, besides, there are issues with today’s optical technologies in general. Being one of the main players on the market of servers and datacenters, Intel is interested in creating and standardizing new generation of optical interconnection technologies.

During the session at IDF, Intel and its partners will address issues and prospects of high-speed server interconnects as well as discuss design goals for MXC, benefits of MXC over other optical connectors as well MXC schedule.

As previously reported, the new architecture is based on more than a decade's worth of research to invent a family of silicon-based photonic devices, including lasers, modulators and detectors using low-cost silicon to fully integrate photonic devices of unprecedented speed and energy efficiency. Silicon photonics is a new approach to using light (photons) to move huge amounts of data at very high speeds with extremely low power over a thin optical fiber rather than using electrical signals over a copper cable. Intel has spent the past two years proving its silicon photonics technology was production-worthy, and has now produced engineering samples.

Silicon photonics made with inexpensive silicon rather than expensive and exotic optical materials provides a distinct cost advantage over older optical technologies in addition to providing greater speed, reliability and scalability benefits. Businesses with server farms or massive data centers could eliminate performance bottlenecks and ensure long-term upgradability while saving significant operational costs in space and energy.