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06 Dec 07. Light to shrink computer clusters. Supercomputers may one day be the size of a laptop thanks to research by IBM. Scientists at IBM have completed work that may make it possible to do away with the copper wires used to couple processing cores to each other. The connector created by the team uses light to pass data between the computational cores that is faster and uses less power than copper wires. The device is smaller than previously demonstrated connectors promising to shrink future computational clusters. The IBM development, reported in the journal Optics Express, could replace the copper wires that connect cores with a device that converts electrical signals to pulses of light. The device, called a silicon Mach-Zehnder electro-optic modulator, is many times smaller than previously produced convertors. “What we have done is a significant step toward building a vastly smaller and more power-efficient way to connect those cores, in a way nobody has done before,” said Dr Tze-chiang Chen, a spokesman for IBM’s science and technology research division. It could also boost the power of coupled computational cores because by using light, the speed at which data travels between the cores would be accelerated. With light the researchers, led by Dr Will Green, can cut the amount of power needed to move data between processors and slash the amount of heat a large computational cluster produces. The technology, which can transfer data up to a distance of a few centimetres, is about 100 times faster than wires and consumes one-tenth as much power, said Dr Green. The lower power requirement should reduce operational costs for supercomputers. Doing away with some of the cooling systems for computational clusters could shrink the systems further. So far the team has only demonstrated the technology in a lab and it could be years before it makes its way into commercial chips. (Source: BBC)

06 Dec 07. International Business Machines Corp. scientists described a “significant milestone” in speeding up computer processors by using optical signals on a chip instead of electronic signals. Within five years, the advance could lead to tiny, energy-efficient chips that process far more information than today’s chips process, without overheating. IBM said the amount of processing that now requires a supercomputer the size of a refrigerator could be accomplished in a laptop. In a paper in the journal Optics Express, researchers from IBM’s T.J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., described a device on a silicon chip that controls pulses of light through a device called a wave-guide. Will Green, leader of the IBM research team, said, “It’s bringing the capabilities of fiber-optic networks down to the level of a chip.” Fiber optics has remade the telecom industry because it is much quicker and takes far less energy than sending electric signals over metal wires. “You can put hundreds of times more data on an optical wire than on a copper wire,” Mr. Green said. The development is an important step in the emerging field called silicon
nanophotonics. Physics professor Tom Koch at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., saw the paper and said, “people have presumed these structures [optical modulators] are large, and they’ve reduced it by a factor of 10.” He said he knows of several companies that are working on using photonics to connect racks of computers in data centers or circuit boards within computers to increase speed and reduce energy use. IBM is developing the technology on the chip, as opposed to between circuit boards or between computers. (Source: FT.com)

10 Dec 07. Curtiss-Wright Controls Embedded Computing announced the PMC-110 CryptoNet Security PMC, its first rugged embedded security module. The PMC-110, a Processor PMC (PrPMC) mezzanine module, available in both air-cooled and conduction-cooled versions, is the first embedded boar

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