IBM's Holey Optochip could be supercomputing, data center boon

Summary:IBM said that it created 48 holes in a standard CMOS chip to make the Holey Optochip. These holes allow optical access through the back of the chip to 24 receiver and 24 transmitter channels.

IBM outlined a prototype optical chipset called Holey Optochip that can transfer one terabit of information a second. That throughput---assuming the chip eventually scales---could provide a bandwidth boost that alters the supercomputing and data center landscape.

Scientists from Big Blue will present the prototype at the Optical Fiber Communications Conference.

Holey Optochip---we assume there will be a more commercial friendly name in the future---is a parallel optical transceiver that has the speed to equal all the bandwidth consumed by 100,000 users at a 10Mb/s clip.

IBM said that it created 48 holes in a standard CMOS chip. These holes allow optical access through the back of the chip to 24 receiver and 24 transmitter channels. These lanes allow data to transfer freely. IBM created the prototype using off-the-shelf components.

Optical chip interconnect technologies will be needed to bridge the explosion of data and bandwidth constraints.

According to IBM's statement:

A single 90-nanometer IBM CMOS transceiver IC with 24 receiver and 24 transmitter circuits becomes a Holey Optochip with the fabrication of forty-eight through-silicon holes, or “optical vias” – one for each transmitter and receiver channel. Simple post-processing on completed CMOS wafers with all devices and standard wiring levels results in an entire wafer populated with Holey Optochips. The transceiver chip measures only 5.2 mm x 5.8 mm. Twenty-four channel, industry-standard 850-nm VCSEL (vertical cavity surface emitting laser) and photodiode arrays are directly flip-chip soldered to the Optochip. This direct packaging produces high-performance, chip-scale optical engines. The Holey Optochips are designed for direct coupling to a standard 48-channel multimode fiber array through an efficient microlens optical system that can be assembled with conventional high-volume packaging tools.

Got all that? All that mumbo jumbo really means that you can transmit the entire U.S. Library of Congress’ web archive in an hour through Holey Optochip.

Topics: Hardware, Data Centers, IBM, Networking, Processors

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Larry Dignan is Editor in Chief of ZDNet and SmartPlanet as well as Editorial Director of ZDNet's sister site TechRepublic. He was most recently Executive Editor of News and Blogs at ZDNet. Prior to that he was executive news editor at eWeek and news editor at Baseline. He also served as the East Coast news editor and finance editor at CN... Full Bio

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