New approaches needed to improve data centre infrastructure

25th September 2017
Alice Matthews

Speaking on the opening day of ECOC 2017 the President of Consortium for On-Board Optics (COBO), Brad Booth, highlighted next-gen technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, 5G, and the Internet of Things (IoT) stand to benefit from equipment manufacturers’ adoption of on-board optics. Booth explained how the data centre infrastructure will need new approaches such as on-board optics to better cope with the large increases in traffic generated by these new innovative technologies.

“Consumers are getting used to having certain things in their lives and as these new technologies are deployed, we need to ensure the infrastructure is in place to allow the seamless transition to occur,” said Booth. “As more data is generated, the existing infrastructure will find difficulties in handling the data and keeping up with the bandwidth demand. We can produce critical mass data but to use it effectively and enable users to exploit this data to better their lives, we must be able to manipulate data and that requires the infrastructure to continuously innovate and evolve. This is inevitable.”

Booth went on to say how data produced by growing trends such as 5G, the IoT, and AI needs to be moved efficiently and rapidly between devices – of which copper interconnects will find difficult to deliver.

He called for the industry to come together to collaborate on advancing the adoption of board-mounted optical modules via a global standardisation effort through COBO – that has more than 70 active member companies. COBO is working to overcome limitations of current infrastructure by developing industry specifications to advance bandwidth growth beyond 400G, enabling optical modules to be placed over the current infrastructure.

“If you look at trends in the industry and technology advancements over the last 20 years and project where technology is going to go in the future, you cannot help but feel that some of the things we do now have to evolve,” Booth continued. “We are facing a situation where the full capabilities of these technologies will experience a bottleneck limited by its physical infrastructure.”

COBO is already working to address this industry-wide requirement by developing specifications for the next-gen of optical models, bringing together all of the ecosystem’s players including high-performance switch manufacturers, operators, sub-system builders, component makers, and system integrators.

Earlier this year, it selected the electrical connector for its upcoming standard which defines the key component for mounting on-board optical modules to printed circuit boards (PCBs) – significantly progressing the development of what will be the first truly multi-sourced on-board optics modules. More of such standards are in the COBO Roadmap.

“With a standardisation effort such as COBO to help avoid proprietary solutions which increase costs and lead to vendor lock-in, we can drive forward real change which will help these next-gen technologies deliver on their promise of adding true value to end-users’ daily lives,” concluded Booth.

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