Datacenters are a critical component of the modern internet, responsible for processing and storing tremendous amounts of data in the “cloud.” Datacenters also provide the computational power needed for handling “big data,” a growing segment of the U.S. economy. Currently, datacenters consume more than 2.5% of U.S. electricity and this figure is projected to double in about eight years due to the expected growth in data traffic. There are many approaches to improving the energy efficiency of datacenters, but these strategies will be limited by the efficiency with which information travels along metal interconnects within the devices in the datacenter—all the way down to the computer chips that process information. Unlike metal interconnects, photonic interconnects do not rely on electrons flowing through metal to transmit information. Instead, these devices send and receive information in the form of photons—light—enabling far greater speed and bandwidth at much lower energy and cost per bit of data. The integration of photonic interconnects will enable new network architectures and photonic network topologies that hold the potential to double overall datacenter efficiency over the next decade.
Project Innovation + Advantages:
Ayar Labs will develop new intra-rack configurations using silicon-based photonic (optical) transceivers, optical devices that transmit and receive information. The team will additionally develop methods to package their photonic transceiver with an electronic processor chip. Marrying these two components will reduce the size and cost of the chip system. Integrated packaging also moves the photonics closer to the chip, which increases energy efficiency by reducing the amount of "hops" between components. If successful, the project will prove that chip packages incorporating both optics and processors, or optics and switches, are possible. This will finally allow optics to penetrate deep into an electrical system and relieve chip interconnect bottlenecks, enabling system architecture improvements to achieve nearly double the energy efficiency with a structure more optimized for future data-use cases such as "big data" analytics and machine learning.
If successful, developments from ENLITENED projects will result in an overall doubling in datacenter energy efficiency in the next decade through deployment of new photonic network topologies.
The United States is home to much of the world’s datacenter infrastructure. Photonic networks add resilience that can bolster the energy security of this critical driver of economic activity.
Reducing the overall energy consumption of datacenters cuts energy-related emissions per bit of data processed or stored.
Photonic networks can lower the costs associated with operating datacenters, improving American economic competitiveness in this fast-developing area.