Patterson sees flash in 100 TByte modules and DRAM merging into a single memory tier by 2020, running below the level of on chip and package memory. Hard disks will act as cold storage in his scheme.
Firebox will use all optical connections between chips, modules, and systems. Performance in data centers is limited by their slowest links, so spending more on the networking elements reaps rewards.
Berkeley researchers have been working toward on-chip interfaces for eight years. The Firebox system will leverage optics to get to make any connection inside its cluster with no more than four optical hops, Patterson said.
Patterson plans to build with colleagues at Berkeley as a research project. They are developing a prototype system this summer with initial test chips with embedded optical links coming in the fall.
A Firebox cluster will use up to 40 racks, tailored for different compute, switching, memory, and storage roles.
— Rick Merritt, Silicon Valley Bureau Chief, EE Times