Intel launches silicon photonics

The product, 16 years in the making, provides a solution as the cost of fiber optics in the datacenter grows.

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Intel Executive Vice President Diane Bryant unveiled silicon photonics at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco, Calif., on August 17, 2016. (Image: ZDNet)

Intel on Tuesday announced it's launching silicon photonics, a product 16 years in the making, to enhance the use of optics for datacenter traffic management.

It has a tremendous advantage over other silicon solutions, Intel Executive Vice President Diane Bryant said at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco, Calif. Intel is "the first to light up silicon", she said, integrating the laser light-emitting material onto silicon.

It uses silicon lithography to align the laser with precision, she said, creating a cost advantage because it's automatically aligned. It has a performance advantage because of the precision of lithography. The module Intel is introducing delivers 100Gbps.

With network traffic in the data center doubling every 12 months, electrons running over copper cable just won't cut it, Bryant said. However, the cost of fiber optics is growing, positioning silicon photonics as the next solution.

Intel started shipping silicon photonics in June. "We're very excited about the response we've seen so far," Bryant said.

The competitive advantage Intel will gain with silicon photonics demonstrates the "power of being an integrated design and manufacturing house", she said.