Intel today announced a new breakthrough for co-packaged silicon photonics optics Ethernet switches. The company has integrated next-generation 1.6Tbps silicon photonics engines with the 12.8Tbps programmable Tofino 2 Ethernet switch Intel acquired from Barefoot Networks last year.
With the emergence of hyperscale cloud data centers, demand for data bandwidth has become practically limitless. To provide cost-effective interconnect solutions, Intel has been on a path to increase the bandwidth of its silicon photonics, which has been available in a 100Gbps pluggable optics form factor since 2016. Last year, Intel announced it would start production of 200Gbps and 400Gbps in the first half of 2020 and has used the present demonstration to reiterate this. Intel disclosed it has shipped over 3 million 100G pluggable transceivers to date.
Simultaneously, Intel has also been looking to further integrate its silicon photonics technology. In the common pluggable topics (QSFP28) form factor, the optics are installed in the switch faceplate, which in turn is connected to switch SerDes ports using an electrical trace. However, Intel says that as bandwidth grows, connecting the pluggable optics to the SerDes becomes more complex and consumes more power.