Indeed, a handful of companies including Cisco Systems, Intel, Luxtera—and maybe IBM—hope to ramp some sort of silicon photonics offering in 2014, mainly targeting 100G opportunities.
“There is a huge bottleneck at 100G out there,” said Martin. “The old style optics are clumsy, big and expensive, but with silicon photonics you integrates all that stuff--hundreds of piece parts--into a single chip."
Intel showed in 2010 a prototype using a similar approach to Kotura, multiplexing four signals with WDM over a single fibre. But the x86 giant spiked interest in the area last week when it announced engineering samples for a 100G product using four parallel fibres carrying 25G signals.
Justin Rattner, Intel's chief technology officer, and Arista Networks founder Andy Bechtolsheim said the 100G modules will be a huge enabler for all sorts of uses inside and between server racks in a data center.
Like Intel, startup Luxtera is preparing a 100G module using four 25G fibres. It says its products could cost as little as $250 for distances of less than two kilometers. The product will consume about 2.5W even if clock-data recovery circuits are required, said Chris Bergey, vice president of marketing for Luxtera.
Luxtera considers itself ahead because it has already shipped more than half a million 40 and 56G silicon photonics chip sets for use with Ethernet and Infiniband. It is waiting for ASICs with 25G serdes to ship in 2014 before it rolls out its 100G product, said Bergey.
Work on 25G chip-to-chip interconnects is expected to be one of the hot topics at DesignCon.
Luxtera got $21.7 million in a C round of venture funding in February 2012, and took on a board member from Broadcom. It struck a deal that same month with STMicroelectronics to make its devices in a 300mm Crolles, France, fab.
The startup uses a single external laser to save cost. It claims all other functions are handled on its chip which uses MEMS techniques.