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Intel announces super-fast 1.6 Tbit/sec optical cable for data centers

Fiber-based MXC cable allows 800Gbps bi-directional transfer with a maximum length of 300-meters.


Suddenly Thunderbolt looks like it’s stuck in the slow lane. That’s because Intel and a few of its partners have announced a cable that’s much much faster, but is geared towards data centers and not consumers. Intel’s new “MXC” cable, co-developed with Corning, US Conec, TE Connectivity and Molex, has 64-fiber strands that can transmit 25Gbps across each fiber for an aggregate of 1.6 Tbit/sec.

For Intel, MXC is something of a rebirth of its fiber optic efforts. Originally Thunderbolt was supposed to use fiber optics — hence the original codename “Light Peak” — but Apple, who was a partner in the project from the get-go, pushed hard to use standard copper instead.

For server makers, having this much internal bandwidth available will change the way that server racks are designed. According to a blog post by Mario Paniccia, a general manager of general manager Intel’s Silicon Photonics Operations Organization, this will allow for a “disaggregation of memory, storage and processing subsystems into separate boxes.” No longer will a server have to contain every component, which is an inefficient use of space, but rather each component will be stored in its own rack in the server farm of the future.

“The ability to take my memory and stash it a rack away, optical can enable that,” Paniccia is quoted as saying.

The cables are scheduled to go into mass-production later this year, but Microsoft, Huawei, Facebook via the Open Compute Project, Arista and Fujitsu are said to be already sampling them.  No word yet on the costs.

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