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Faster Data Centers Using Less Energy a Key Focus for Rockley Photonics

September 29, 2016

Bigger, faster, better – it’s what we want when it comes to technology and data centers are no exception. We want to quickly process and access data, and centers need to be efficient and sustainable. Is it too much to ask or is a focus on transforming network infrastructure enough to produce the better data center?

Next-gen switching was the focus for transforming network infrastructure at Southampton Hub’s industry day as Rockley Photonics’ CEO, Dr. Andrew Rickman presented the keynote speech on scaling cloud data centers with packet switching. According to a recent Optics news piece, Rockley Photonics is focused on the development of optical packet switching solutions for mega data center networks.

The company’s mission, according to Rickman, is the development of packet switching solutions that are massively scalable. The target is the booming hyper-scale cloud data center market and devices offered will rely on a unique combination of silicon photonics integrated with CMOs and RPFabric architecture. Aside from the data center application, the developed modulators are touted as offering high manufacturing tolerances and excellent fabrication yields.

                      Image via Bigstock

To further explain, Rickman notes that the company is developing a state-of-the-art, low-loss 3µm silicon photonics-based platform that is a polarization-independent waveguide platform. Designed specifically for high-density WDM routing, devices on this platform are monolithically integrated, low-power, high-speed modulators with photo-diodes completely integrated. The focus here is essentially to replace traditional switches that tend to be power-hungry, costly and too small to meet the demands of today’s companies transforming network infrastructure.

Currently, the data center is viewed as a necessary evil; considered the bottleneck in current networking models. As such, a number of different suppliers are focused on accelerating and optimizing switching performance and speed while also cutting space and energy demands. A key focus is expected to be on the reduction of associated thermal problems that tend to damage devices and reduce their potential lifetimes.  

In a nutshell, Rockley Photonics is trying to solve technical and performance challenges, while also recognizing that networking costs are not following Moore’s Law, a reliable guide to the development path of integrated electronics systems for the past 50 years. The challenge for many is that the relative cost of networking is increasing with respect to compute power. As a result, many are left wondering how they can sustain projected substantial increases in compute capacity in data centers over the next 10 years.

Rickman shared, “Our unique network fabric solution crosses over a trio of current and legacy market areas and players in a dynamic and fragmented market space. Innovating across the boundaries will cause disruption and get us noticed. There is no direct competition to Rockley Photonics at the integrated solution level.”

If the company can truly solve these challenges and help in the process of transforming network infrastructure to better support faster data center solutions, they will meet a significant demand for years to come.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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