Spring 2021 - Optical Connections Magazine


Intel 1.6T photonic engine and 100G CWDM4

really co-packaging. It’s putting the optics and the electronics

together on the same substrate, in the same package. And silicon photonics enables you to do this co-packaging of optics and electronics. We did a 12.8T co- packaged Ethernet switch demonstration in 2020 using 1.6T photonic engines, and other industry players, such as Broadcom, have also talked about their plans for co-packaged Ethernet switches. So there’s a big push to make 51.2T switches and certainly 102.4T switches with co- packaging optics a reality, and this includes work in the standards bodies.

(at CES 2021) is coherent LiDAR for automotive applications. LiDAR and other photonic chips also have uses in many non- automotive sectors for surveillance applications, such as drones for

farming. And urban air mobility or robotics in general will require a suite of sensors. Biotechnology and personal health are other areas that use or will use a lot more photonics moving forward.

Are you concentrating on data centres, or are you looking at longer distances?


the ecosystem as open as possible. So I think we are seeing some focusing of effort right now around co-packaged optics. We will have to see how that all evolves, but I think it’s important that there is agreement on some of the more obvious things.

RB Our focus is really for inside the data centre today. All of the transceivers we’ve done so far are between 500 metres and 10 kilometres of reach. Coherent communication for longer reaches is certainly an area that we’re looking at, but we don’t have any products to talk about right now. There’s obviously clear value in using silicon photonics for making coherent receivers or IQ modulators for long distance communications, and the likes of Acacia, now Cisco, have demonstrated it. But the demand for these modules is one to two orders of magnitude lower and our current focus is on high-volume applications, which are all inside the data centre today.

You mentioned standards earlier. Is Intel taking part in any standardisation bodies for



Absolutely, we believe this is the right thing to do and obviously, we know where the industry is


So, if there’s one takeaway, what would it be?


headed, but to really enable broad market adoption especially in the data centre you need more players and you want to standardize on some of the electric interfaces, maybe some other factors too. There’s work ongoing right now within the optical internetworking forum, the OIF, to work on some of those co- packaged optics standards. We’re actively participating in that because it’s clear that you need more than just one or two companies to move an entire industry and supply chain in a new direction. What we have seen in the optics industry is that a lot of things have been driven through multi-source agreements (MSAs), and so it doesn’t have to be a formal standard, but you do want at least two or three players to agree on doing certain things the same way. The market demands that we keep

Well, if I’m to step back, it’s really that now we can truly manufacture optics at scale and


this has huge implications. Silicon photonics has advanced from R&D

prototypes and low volume production to high volume manufacturing at scale with outstanding quality and reliability. The initial product deployments have been in data centres, because that’s where the volumes are, but now photonics is expanding into new applications, where it’s going to be noticeably more visible in our everyday lives. In a few years we will see it in our homes, in our cars, and even in bio and health sensing, and other kinds of applications. It will be a new era of high volume, wafer scale optics. It’s a truly exciting time for photonics.

Are you looking at any other applications for this technology?


Yes, there are many applications beyond just the data centre that could benefit from photonics that


is much smaller, lighter, cheaper and more scalable than discrete optics. The first application we talked about in detail

Intel Mobileye LiDAR SoC

Intel Co-Packaged Optics Ethernet Switch



Q1 2021

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