Title: Optical switching for datacenter networks


Technical Area: Networking



Datacenters have become an essential part of internet infrastructure in the era of cloud computing and big data. Today’s datacenter networks are based on electrical switches. All electrical switching networks may encounter some bottlenecks in 5-10 years and not be able to meet the requirements of cloud computing on power, latency and speeds. All optical switching networks or hybrid optical and electrical switching networks may become an important part of datacenter networks in the near future.


For today’s datacenter networks, switches are connected with optical technologies. Switching is performed in the electrical domain. At the interface of electrical switches, electrical signals are converted to optical signals by optical transceivers and transited to the next switches where optical signals are converted back to electrical signals and sent to switch chips to perform switching function. Lots of optical transceivers are needed in such networks, which significantly increases network cost and power consumption. 3.2 Tb/s switch chips are widely used today, 12.8 Tb/s switch chips will be available by the end of this year. Next generation 51.2 Tb/s switch chips may be deployed in 5 years. It is anticipated that larger than 200 Tb/s capacity switch chips will be needed in 10 years, which will be very challenging for electrical switches with the consideration of cost, power consumption and bandwidth density.


There have been lots of research activities on optical switching networks for many years, but they are mainly in academia and research communities and the technology is still in its early stage. It is believed that optical switching will be needed for over 100 Tb/s capacity switches. In recent years, optical switching networks have attracted more and more attentions from industry.



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