IBM's Bright Idea for Supercomputers
December 9, 2007 1:39 PM
comment(s) - last by
IBM's new optical interconnect may shape the future of supercomputers -- and all the other ones, too
A growing issue involved with the new gamut of multi-core processors, from dual-core to
and beyond, is shuttling data between the cores themselves. Problems arise as the bleeding edge of electrical and thermal physics are pushed by the vanishing space between transistors and now between cores. IBM may have something of a solution for this, they recently announced, in the form of an optical coupler.
Due to the wholly unfair restrictions of physics, there is only so much information that can be sent through copper interconnects. Heat and leakage both contribute to this, as smaller structures are much more prone to self-destruction caused by thermal disintegration and interference from their neighbors in the silicon sea.
Light, it turns out, doesn't have much of an issue with either. IBM thinks it will provide a means to safely connect the growing number of cores being packed onto a single chip.
The optical modulator, known as a Mach-Zehnder elctro-optic modulator, is actually much simpler than it sounds. If you're familiar with Digital Light Processing (DLP) television technology, you already understand the basics. In IBM's modulator, a laser is focused on the device, which is also connected to the copper side of the data bus. Rather than working on a reflection-based technology like DLP, the modulator simply uses the electrical binary to operate a shutter-type mechanism to turn the input laser into pulses. The pulses are then sent along a waveguide to a receiver, and translated back into electrical signal.
The modulator's waveguide structure, as well as the size of the device are both limited by the wavelength of light used. IBM's current generation coupler has a 500nm waveguide, and the device itself is a mere 200 micrometers long, half the wavelength of the laser's light. This makes it easily small enough to fit between current generation multi-core processor cores.
The device is many times more efficient than current bus technology. IBM bills speeds at 100 to 1,000 times faster than electrical, with energy consumption of 50 milliwatts or less. The theoretical speed of the interconnects could virtually eliminate anything similar to an information bottleneck as we know it now. And as any student of science can tell you, less power results in less heat, which means less power wasted as well.
The device, as IBM sees it, will in time allow the power of a supercomputer on a chip that feels at home in a laptop. Reduced heat production and electrical costs will not only benefit laptops and other micro-devices, but businesses with giant servers as well. Less space and less heat equates to less money spent on maintaining expensive climate controlled server environments.
The technology is nowhere near ready for integration, unfortunately. IBM projects a 10 to 15 year development for the system. Eventually, rather than the racks full of dual and multi-core processors sported by supercomputers like
, we could see a computer many times more powerful housed in something the size of a current mid-tower ATX case.
This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled
12/10/2007 11:23:08 AM
Due to the wholly unfair restrictions of physics
So true. Gravity pisses me off all the time.
12/11/2007 9:29:27 AM
Wait till you get older.
"When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song." -- Sony BMG attorney Jennifer Pariser
IBM Lands Atop Supercomputer List, Again
November 13, 2007, 9:03 AM
Pricing Phenom: AMD's 2.4 GHz Almost Here
November 6, 2007, 7:54 AM
Intel Slates "Nehalem" for Q4 2008
October 26, 2007, 10:58 AM
Rosewill Releases 3 New Powerline Networking Adapters
May 21, 2013, 4:29 PM
German Researchers Test 40 Gbps Wireless Broadband
May 21, 2013, 11:01 AM
Qualcomm, Samsung Push AMD to Fourth Place in Processor Market
May 21, 2013, 7:50 AM
Supermicro Looks to Shake Up Server Market
May 20, 2013, 9:00 PM
HiPerGator Supercomputer is Florida's Most Powerful Supercomputer
May 17, 2013, 7:08 AM
5/7/2013 Daily Hardware Reviews
May 7, 2013, 12:02 PM
Most Popular Articles
High School Student Creates Storage Device that Can Charge in 20 Seconds
May 20, 2013, 6:51 AM
Google Announces "Pure" Galaxy Nexus S4 for $649, Android Updates
May 15, 2013, 1:42 PM
Seawater Cooling Saves Data Center Big Bucks, Energy, Despite Jellyfish Issues
May 17, 2013, 3:23 PM
U.S. Federal Traffic Board Wants to Make Drunk Driving Threshold Far Harsher
May 15, 2013, 11:32 AM
Newegg Legal Chief: "We don't Feed the Trolls"; Defeats Bell Lab Shell Comp.
May 17, 2013, 10:11 AM
Latest Blog Posts
Quick Note: Sony "Teases" PS4 Ahead of Xbox Reveal in New Video
May 20, 2013, 12:33 PM
Nokia Introduces Instagram-Like App of Its Own to Help Lumia Sales
May 20, 2013, 7:10 AM
Parents of Pre-Teen Drivers Commonly Practice Distracted Driving Says Study
May 9, 2013, 7:16 AM
Apple's iOS 7 Running Into Internal Delays Due to Massive Overhaul
May 1, 2013, 4:26 PM
Elon Musk Willing to Spend More Money on Widening of 405 Freeway
Apr 26, 2013, 7:28 PM
More Blog Posts
Copyright 2013 DailyTech LLC. -
Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information