Intel, Facebook collaborate on new data center rack technologies

Silicon photonics architecture "promises to dramatically change [the] next decade of disaggregated, rack-scale server designs."

Intel and Facebook announced that the companies are collaborating to define the next generation of data center rack technologies to enable the disaggregation of computing, network and storage resources. In a follow-on announcement, Quanta Computer unveiled a mechanical prototype of the companies' new silicon photonics rack architecture, the better to demonstrate the potential for total cost, design and reliability improvements via disaggregation.

Businesses with large data centers can significantly reduce capital expenditure by disaggregating or separating computing and storage resources in a server rack, assert the companies. Rack disaggregation refers to the separation of those resources that currently exist in a rack, including computing, storage, networking, and power distribution into discrete modules. Traditionally, a server within a rack would each have its own group of resources. When disaggregated, resource types may be grouped together and distributed throughout the rack, improving upgradability, flexibility and reliability, while lowering costs.

The mechanical prototype of the new rack architecture includes Intel's silicon photonics technology and distributed input/output using Intel's Ethernet switch silicon, and supports the Intel Xeon processor and the next-generation system-on-chip Intel Atom processor (code-named Avoton). Intel has moved its silicon photonics efforts well beyond research and development, producing engineering samples that run at speeds of up to 100 gigabits per second (Gbps).

The mechanical prototype from Quanta Computer is a demonstration of Intel's photonic rack architecture for interconnecting the various resources, showing one of the ways computing, network and storage resources can be disaggregated within a rack. Further, Intel says it will contribute a design for enabling a photonic receptacle to the Open Compute Project (OCP), and will work with Facebook, Corning and others over time to standardize the design.

Read the full press release of this announcement here.

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