At last week’s Fujitsu Forum, Fujitsu demonstrated technology that is destined to significantly reshape the data centre of the future both in functionality and design. By removing current speed limits to deliver data at the speed of light, performance bottlenecks are eliminated, enabling full speed ahead for realtime business.
Fujitsu has teamed up with Intel to develop high-speed Silicon Photonics Technology, which was shown at Fujitsu Forum in Munich (6 to 7 November) for the first time outside the labs, as a working proof of concept.

With data centre traffic expected to quadruple in the next three years, current networking technology is starting to create limitations and bottlenecks in high-speed data transfer between the three principal data centre computing components: server, storage and network.

A new approach from Fujitsu and Intel uses data transfer at light-speed to remove the speed limits on the data highway and provide a glimpse into the future of the data centre. The throughput performance increase from adopting silicon photonics allows data transfers at ultra-high speeds.

Fibre-optic cables carrying eight strands can transfer data at of up to 1.6Tbps (Terabits per second, and enough to fill an entire 1Tb hard drive in just five seconds).

Data can also be transferred over much greater longer distances (up to 300 metres) than possible with copper-based Ethernet cable interconnects. In turn, this allows application-optimised server design and a paves the way for a new data centre design thanks to the decoupling of computing and storage resources.

The opportunity to abstract server and storage provides opportunities for cost savings on ICT facilities as heat-generating components like server processors, which require expensive climate control, need no longer be in the same room as passive storage arrays.

Transferring data via fibre optic cables as photons instead of electrical pulses also reduces power consumption, and means a drastic reduction in the amount of rack cabling required – since multiple discreet Ethernet connections for every server node are no longer necessary.

By removing the speed limits caused by network performance limitations, silicon photonics paves the way for application-optimised server design. It represents the true disaggregation of compute, network and storage resources. In future it will be easier to upgrade individual components when required, instead of having to replace everything to accommodate a processor or networking refresh.

In the data centre of the future, Fujitsu’s vision is that new systems can be more easily added without having to rearrange and re-cable entire structures. In addition, organisations can expect to reduce capital expenditure and do more with less, since removing performance limitations means that expensive components such as server processors can be better utilised.

“Photonics technology represents a breakthrough by removing the bottlenecks that data centres are starting to have on the speed of doing business in realtime. Data throughput speeds are starting to impede on the performance even of state-of-the-art data centres today.

“By rethinking the role of the data centre – and considering it as a service-oriented provider of computing power for business needs – Fujitsu and Intel have been able to totally rethink the fundamental design. There is absolutely no reason why server and storage should stay together when there are major efficiencies to be gained by separating them,” says Dr. Joseph Reger, chief technology officer, International Business, Fujitsu.