System on a Chip is the Future

System on a Chip is the Future

– a piece by Jonathan Marks of PhotonDelta

At the first PIC International awards in Brussels, Eindhoven-based Effect Photonics was acknowledged as the Industry leader in the category: Advances in Integration. PhotonDelta’s Jonathan Marks spoke with the winners who are operating in the highly competitive arena of datacentre interconnect solutions.

“In the last couple of years, we have seen a tipping point for Indium Phosphide photonics” explains Boudewijn Docter, CTO at Effect Photonics. “The telecom sector, in particular, realises that the exponential thirst for Internet bandwidth cannot be met by simply improving existing silicon technology.” “Datacentres need to double their capacity each year to cope with the global need for speed. The 1.5 billion smartphones sold worldwide in 2016 all want to connect to servers in datacentres. That’s in addition to the 22 billion “Internet of Things” connected devices now out there.”

“Our approach now is to make “systems on photonics chips”, fully harnessing the immediacy of light and combining highly optimised packaging with cost-effective electronics”. James Regan CEO Effect Photonics


The Interconnect Challenge

“As they expand, datacentres physically build their new giant datacentre next to the older one. Which means they need to interconnect these datacentres with extremely fast links carrying huge amounts of data (think PetaBytes) so that they work as one. This interconnectivity between separate data centres is essential so they can operate together, share resources and/or pass workloads between one another.”

“In many modern datacentres, the length of the interconnects is getting very long indeed. Typically, inside the datacentre, interconnect links are between 200 metres or 2 kilometres. But if you’re trying to connect to adjacent datacentres, links of 10+ kilometres are common. We’ve seen interconnects of 80 or 100 kilometres being needed when buildings are on the other side of a campus. The challenge is that extremely fast links over these longer distances don’t work efficiently with incumbent technologies. By understanding what these customers need at what cost then you can design a system that can deliver”.

Integrate everything

Today, with these long interconnect distances, it’s no longer sufficient to have a solution that integrates just some parts of a system. James Regan, CEO of Effect Photonics, explains their business strategy to solve the interconnect challenge.

“We’ve deliberately taken a holistic approach to these very complex technologies. We’ve focused on understanding the interdependence of system components.  Our approach now is to make “systems on photonics chips”, fully harnessing the immediacy of light and combining highly optimised packaging with cost-effective electronics. We’ve built a high-volume capability platform from the start. So, having met customer’s specifications, producing in volume is no problem.”

Hyperscale ready

“We heard many important industry concerns at the 2017 PIC conference in Brussels on March 7th and 8th. There’s clearly an urgent need for advances in design, packaging, testing and component integration to meet customer needs. There are robust discussions around lower pricing and scaling up the fabrication process. We know that our photonics knowledge also applies to next generation 5G networks where we expect fibre optics to reach all the way to the mobile base-station tower antenna. We also take an active part in European research projects such as the WIPE project.

Over 6000 eligible votes were cast for the finalists in this year’s PIC Awards.

“We thank our colleagues in the Photonics industry for their strong vote of confidence in delivering a product that matches customer needs. And we look forward to interesting discussions at the OFC Exhibition in Los Angeles.”

EFFECT Photonics will be at booth #1328 at OFC (19-23 March 2017) !

Corlia van Tonder

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