The high data loads of the future--and even the present--require that optical communications platforms continue to get faster, leaner, and cheaper. At the Optical Fiber Communication Conference in Los Angeles today, IBM will report on a prototype optical chip it has developed that has hit a significant milestone in optical data transfer: one terabit--that’s one trillion bits--per second.
That’s like downloading 500 HD movies at once, a speed matching the bandwidth consumed by 100,000 users at today’s average high-speed Web rates. It’s important to note that this a parallel optics chip technology, not a long-range fiber optic serial communications technology, so it’s not going to instantaneously boost the speed at which data traverses the oceans. But between computers on a local network (between different servers in a data center, for instance) this technology could provide some pretty searing speeds.The chip itself gets its name from the fact that there are 48 tiny holes bored through a standard silicon CMOS chip that connects on the back side with 24 receiver and 24 transmitter channels. These channels allow a whole lot of data to move through the chip in both directions simultaneously, allowing for these terabit-per-second transfer speeds.