Problem: Today’s bandwidth technology in inadequate for the upcoming demands like cloud computing, streaming high definition video, and distributed data storage.
Solution: A 1 terabit Ethernet. That’s an impressive solution. And it is not outside the realm of possibility. Consider that researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) and the Terabit Optical Ethernet Center (TOEC) division are aiming just for that; a 1 Terabit Ethernet over optical fiber, that is 1 trillion bits per second in a few years, specifically by 2015 and then a 100 Terabit Ethernet by 2020. This research has garnered the attention of Intel, Verizon, Agilent Technologies, Google, and Rockwell Collins. They are partnering with TOEC as founding industry affiliates.
The Wall has been Hit
Power and generated heat are dictating the limits of today’s networking equipment. When running a 100 Gigabits per second network you need a lot of power to run and cool the required systems. So to get Ethernet toward the 1 and 100 Terabits per second range, the underlying technologies will require to scale power and cooling elements as needed.
So what is the path to take; what is the research foundation? Photonics energy is the way forward. Indeed scientists at Alcatel-Lucent Bell Labs claim that optical transmission gear consumes less power by a factor of 10 than other network technologies such as cellular base stations and packet routers.
Current research at TOEC anticipates that advancements made in photonic integrated circuit technology, materials, advanced electronics, silicon photonics, and high-speed integrated optical and electronic circuits, will result in bridging these new technologies together to create real networking systems.
Research into new low-cost, and energy-efficient optical technologies will, hopefully, leverage the techniques now used in semiconductor manufacturing to become the foundation for the next generation of Ethernet of the future. The strategy will be to use silicon photonics to create integrated, low-cost, Terabit-per-second Ethernet devices.