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Embedded Photonics Interconnect Eco-system for Data Center Applications
Keywords: System Embedded Photonics, Data Centers, Optical Waveguides
In-system bandwidth densities driven by interconnect speeds and scalable I/O within data storage and server enclosures will continue to increase over the coming years thereby severely impacting cost and performance in future data center systems. System embedded electro-optical interconnect technologies have been the subject of research and development for many years to provide a cost viable “eco-system” to mitigate this impending bottleneck. In this paper, we discuss how emerging commercial technologies, global disruptive research activities and international standards are influencing the commercial adoption of system embedded optical interconnect. Xyratex’s photonics research and development activities have over the past few years focussed on disruptive solutions to enable embedded optical interconnect in the system enclosure. We will present research and development achievements in this field including the development of the pluggable active and passive optical backplane connectors [1], low cost high precision optical assembly methods [2] and bend loss reduction in polymer waveguides [3]. Furthermore we are working with our European collaborators to deploy a complete suite of high-performance, low-energy and cost and small-size optical solutions spanning the system connectivity hierarchies of data centers and high performance computers including rack-to-rack, board-to-board, chip-to-chip and on-chip optical links [4]. We discuss the evolution of international standards in optical printed circuit boards and how these will influence the route to commercial adoption. Xyratex, in collaboration with our European partners have successfully designed, developed and integrated three types of PCB embedded optical interconnect: 1) fibre laminates, 2) polymer waveguides and 3) planar glass waveguides [5], and we consider the relative merits of all three technologies in modern data center systems. We have addressed the challenges of implementing optical links within data storage system architectures, which has culminated in the successful demonstration of the world’s first fully optically enabled data storage system.
Richard Pitwon, Lead Photonics Technologist
Xyratex Technology Ltd
Havant, Hampshire

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