Hardware optimize

DARPA backs Sun in optical computing, but IBM is a player too

The research arm of the U.S. military has picked Sun Microsystems to research optical computing technologies that could enable computing that is 1000 times faster than today's fastest supercomputer.

The research arm of the U.S. military has picked Sun Microsystems to research optical computing technologies that could enable computing that is 1000 times faster than today's fastest supercomputer. Basically, researchers will try to replace the wires that currently connect computer chips together with lasers, which allow for far faster data transmission within and between chips in a computer and also dramatically decrease the heat generated by microprocessors.

Replacing wire with laser, Sun tries to speed up data (News.com)

IBM has already made some hay in this area, announcing its creation of the world's smallest nanophotonic switch, the communication channel between cores in a microprocessor. IBM is also touting how green its new technology is, citing power savings of 100 times over electrical wiring and 10 times over current optical switches.

IBM Researchers Develop World’s Tiniest Nanophotonic Switch To Route Optical Data Between Cores In Future Computer Chips (Photonics Online)

IBM unveils optical computing system for moving huge data files (Computer Weekly)

Optical computing is poised to do the same thing for computing that the microchip did back in the early years: dramatically increase processor speed over today's computers. Sun has the definite benefit of Department of Defense funding, which has been a precursor to technologies that have since become ubiquitous, like the Internet. However, it appears that IBM already has a marked technology lead in the area of optical computing. Who do you think will be the first to market with a computer that uses lasers for its internal bus?

6 comments
trackpads
trackpads

Wow, as an Army Officer I am still waiting for the Cylon Warrior to fill in for me during the next tour in Iraq. Can someone at Darpa get on that one for me? Seriously, I like the power savings. Soldiers currently carry way to many batteries as it is. The savings in weight alone would make anything even close to this worthwhile.

normhaga
normhaga

We are familiar AT&T/ Bell Laboratories. They had worked since the 70's to make optically enabled cpu's without success. So either Darpa is pursuing a pipe dream or else there is something new. With ATT, as I recall, the problem was that by the time you converted from light to silicon you lost speed over what straight silicon provided.

Andy J. Moon
Andy J. Moon

Sun has the advantage of nearly unlimited funding from the DoD, but IBM is no slouch in the R&D department. Big Blue's R&D budget is massive and has turned out advance after advance, though the pickings seem like they've been pretty slim over the past few years. Who do you think will deliver first?

bishopdante
bishopdante

nothing darpa funds is coming to market publicly, as is always the case. therefore IBM.

keeleyt83
keeleyt83

Didn't an Israeli company do a laser-based system several years ago? Am I thinking of something else?