These days, speed is everything when it comes to computing, from internet downloads to transferring data between dedicated servers. And with the amount of information increasing all the time, having fast access is only going to get more important.
How many times have you found yourself waiting impatiently watching a progress bar as you transfer files to or from a data center? It’s not just irritating, it can also be seriously unproductive to busy companies, but this may be about to become a thing of the past thanks to a new innovation from IBM.
The power of light
The chipmaker announced this week it’s made what could potentially be a huge breakthrough in how information is transferred in data centers and supercomputers, by using light to transfer data instead of electrical signals.
This has two key advantages over traditional solutions – it’s faster as light carries more info at once and it can also cover greater distances without the need to boost the signal to prevent data loss.
Of course, optical data transfer in itself isn’t new – some firms have been using these cables for a while now – but the BBC noted that in the past, these tools have always needed complex and expensive equipment at each end to convert the light into useful electrical signals.
IBM’s new technology differs as it includes optical technology side-by-side on the same chip as electrical components. This makes it much cheaper and simpler to mass produce, which could bring the technology within reach of all users. The firm stated it’s ready to begin commercial manufacturing of the chips, so you might see them in data centers in the near future.
What this will mean is much more efficient solutions that can deliver information much quicker in response to a search query. Dr Solomon Assefa, a nanophotonics scientist at IBM Research, told the BBC information is often widely distributed within data centers.
This means it can often take some time to retrieve, so the key challenge is to cut down on this by improving the connections between chips and servers. IBM’s latest innovation promises to do just this and could be the perfect answer to a new era of big data where speed matters more than ever.