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.
"We shipped it on Saturday. Then on Sunday, we rested." -- Steve Jobs on the iPad launch
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
Tinkerer Gets Old School Mac Plus Running on the Modern Web
March 24, 2015, 6:41 PM
Facebook-Backed Oculus Rift's Release Date Slips to 2016; Valve and HTC Salivate
March 16, 2015, 5:58 PM
Hackers Steal Roughly $1 Billion From Banks Using Malware RAT
February 17, 2015, 9:30 AM
NVIDIA Kills Mobile GPU Overclocking, Robs Customers Who Paid For It
February 16, 2015, 8:59 AM
Apple Offers Refurbished 5K Retina iMacs for $2,119 Online
January 16, 2015, 12:37 PM
SanDisk Unveils Pricey iXpand USB 2.0/Lightning Drive to Expand iPhone, iPad Storage
November 13, 2014, 2:29 PM
Most Popular Articles
WSJ Report Implies That Google Leveraged Lobbying to Kill Antitrust Abuse Probe
March 25, 2015, 5:37 PM
Half a Billion Dollars of U.S. Weaponry May be Lost to al-Qaeda, Rebels in Yemen
March 23, 2015, 2:12 PM
Samsung, Dell, Pegatron to Preinstall Microsoft Office 365 on Android Devices
March 23, 2015, 4:02 PM
Texan WISP Owner With Colorful History Sues to Block FCC Net Neutrality Rules
March 24, 2015, 1:19 PM
NVIDIA's Latest Windows 10 Drivers: Still Too Unstable For Primetime
March 24, 2015, 4:45 PM
Latest Blog Posts
Sceptre Airs 27", 120 Hz. 1080p Monitor/HDTV w/ 5 ms Response Time for $220
Dec 3, 2014, 10:32 PM
Costco Gives Employees Thanksgiving Off; Wal-Mart Leads "Black Thursday" Charge
Oct 29, 2014, 9:57 PM
"Bear Selfies" Fad Could Turn Deadly, Warn Nevada Wildlife Officials
Oct 28, 2014, 12:00 PM
The Surface Mini That Was Never Released Gets "Hands On" Treatment
Sep 26, 2014, 8:22 AM
ISIS Imposes Ban on Teaching Evolution in Iraq
Sep 17, 2014, 5:22 PM
More Blog Posts
Copyright 2015 DailyTech LLC. -
Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information