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Intel silicon photonics modules can't take the heat of the HPC kitchen

Chipzilla puts first batch of kit on ice, promises fix from chill pill

Chipzilla's first foray into silicon photonics has hit a snag, with Intel reworking its expected production runs to fix “quality issues” with its first modules.

The company's 100 Gbps-and-beyond project is designed to push optical transmission right down to the system level. Using optical signals between system components like the CPU, memory and disks combines the holy-grail-like characteristics of high speed and less heat dissipation (compared to shoving electrons through copper).

Intel demonstrated 100 Gbps modules at the Intel Developer Forum in April 2013, and was hoping to start at least early shipments by now.

However, the company told Computerworld the first batch of modules weren't up to scratch.

Intel's Mark O Miller confirmed the quality issues to The Register, saying specifically that the first batch of modules didn't operate over the specified temperature range.

Since the early target markets for this kind of kit are supercomputers and data centres, both of them high-heat environments, it's no surprise that Chipzilla decided to hold back on shipment.

Miller confirmed that the slip will probably push the modules back to 2016. While he declined to identify any specific remediation steps the company is taking, Miller said “we have found the root cause and fixes have been implemented as we make the advanced manufacturing transition”.

Ultimately, Intel hopes the transition to silicon photonics will yield terabit-per-second systems per stream. ®

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