Terabit Ethernet, Concepts Proven

Justin Kerr

Gigabit Ethernet may still outrun all but the most extreme SSD Raid configurations, but researchers can never rest on their laurels. Always hoping to invent the next big thing, scientists now have their sights set on Terabit Ethernet to help quell our insatiable hunger for bandwidth. A team from Australia, Denmark, and China has combined their efforts to demonstrate terabit-per-second speeds using fiber optic cables, laser light, and an unusual material named chalcogenide.

The group documented the results of its most recent trial in a white paper published in the February 16th 2009 issue of Optics Express. Though the technology is promising, Ben Eggleton, research director for CUDOS (Center for Ultrahigh bandwidth Devices for Optical Systems), points out the current limitations. “The problem isn't injecting that much high speed data into an optical strand, called multiplexing, but retrieving data at such high rates”. Conventional electronics are capable of injecting dozens of 10 Gbps streams, but trying to retrieve these streams any faster than 40 Gbps is beyond our current capabilities.

The breakthrough here however isn’t in the speed itself, but in proving the concept. Until the processing hardware catches up with our transmission capabilities, you won’t be finding this in routers anytime soon. Eggleton speculates that these concepts can be adapted to achieve slower and more manageable results, but the goal of this experiment was simply to prove that it was possible using fully photonic chips built using the same methods employed by current CMOS circuits. "It's years to complete," Eggleton said, taking these research efforts into a production technology. But these demonstrations "are starting to establish this is a serious proposition."

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