HP contends that its photonic interconnects are poised for commercialization, which will begin immediately along with business partners. In addition to HP's university partners, over a dozen companies attended the HP forum, including Avago, Corning, Intel and Lightwire.
HP's motivation for hosting the Photonic Interconnect Forum was to start a full-fledged commercialization effort designed to bring optical interconnects to market sooner rather than later.
"We don't want to start with supercomputers and hope that it trickles down," said Morris. "With photonic interconnects, we want to start with volumes from the outset."
Instead of using telecommunications-type photonics--which is designed for 300 meter ranges--HP said it wants to craft a family of low-power signaling technologies that use silicon nanoimprint lithography to fashion low-cost alternatives for optical communnications.
The goal is to develop "the infrastructure to get photonic interconnects to market," said Morris. "We already have photonic waveguides that can operate at up to terahertz ranges. Now we want to make sure that our solutions work in real computing environments," said Morris.
"We want to expand our photonics business to include all communications in the range of 100 nanometers on a chip all the way up to 100 meters between systems," the HP executive added. "In the near term we want to connect boards and blades with photonic interconnects. In the long-term we want to build on-chip photonic connections which we think will break the core-to-memory bottleneck."
Photonic interconnects have been touted as not only improving performance and solving bandwidth problems, but also operating at much lower power than conventional electrical switches, according to HP.
Cheap photonic interconnects will also usher in new computing architectures that utilized dedicated optical connections rather than sharing all the interconnections through a bus or network.
"Instead of going through a switch and out onto a congested bus then back through the switch, we plan on adding inexpensive direct connections that add a dimension of connectivity not possible today," said Morris. "For instance, we could add photonic connections between blades for true 3D meshes and toroids, while remaining within the confines of existing board infrastructures."
HP claims to be working on configuration and packaging problems in hopes of getting photonic interconnect products redy by next year. It's chief competitor in the field is IBM Corp.
"We are currently solving some fundamental electrical problems, like physical adjacency problems, interconnect power in switch hierarchies and pin-count versus core-count on our packages," said Morris.