IBM scientists, who are rapidly sketching the future of computing , have created a prototype optical transceiver chipset that can transfer data at 1 terabit per second. At that speed, 1 trillion bits per second, the entire Web archive of the U.S. Library of Congress could be transferred in an hour, the company said.
The speed for this new chipset, nicknamed "Holey Optochip," is eight times faster than the fastest optical components now on the market, and the company said in a statement that the breakthrough could "transform how data is accessed, shared and used for a new era of communications, computing and entertainment."
The Era of 'Big Data'
Applications for such high-speed data transfer, in the era of what has been described as "Big Data," could include faster transmission and remote processing of data mass capture and modeling, weather forecasting, or various kinds of data-intensive analytics -- not to mention faster online delivery of high-definition videos.
Optical networking uses light pulses instead of electrons to transmit data, and the research is part of a larger effort to increase speed and develop low-cost, high-volume manufacturing for such technology. With manufacturing in mind, the company said that the components used to build the prototype are commercially available.
In the IBM approach, 48 holes were fabricated through a regular silicon CMOS chip. The holes were used to provide optical access to two dozen receiver and transmitter channels, using industry-standard vertical cavity surface-emitting lasers and photodiode arrays. This technique led to the very compact, power -efficient, and high-performance optical module.
The Holey Optochip is designed for direct coupling to a standard 48-channel multimode fiber array. The power efficiency is among the highest yet reported, as the transceiver requires less than five watts.
Never a 'Shortage of Digital Information'
IBM said that this new performance milestone shows that high-speed, low-power interconnects are possible in the near future, and that "optical is the only transmission medium that can stay ahead of the accelerating global demand for broadband."
Charles King, an analyst with industry research firm Pund-IT, said that, for service and content providers, this kind of product could prove to be "very valuable," given that "there's never going to be a shortage of digital information."
One possible expanded use of the blazing new speeds, he noted, is in IBM's own "increasingly sophisticated analytic products for businesses, which depend on huge volumes of collected data."
The terabit chip is only the latest breakthrough from IBM's famed research labs that point to an amazing future for computing. Late last month, for instance, IBM announced that it solved several critical problems that had been in the way of quantum computing becoming a reality.
One of the solved problems involved creating a quantum bit that could have a lifespan long enough for error correction and processing to occur. Another was implementing a quantum-based logic sequence. Those breakthroughs, among others at IBM and elsewhere, allowed the IBM researchers to predict that quantum computing would happen within as little as 15 years.