Abstract

Following a decade of radical advances in the areas of integrated photonics and computing architectures, we discuss the use of optics in the current computing landscape attempting to redefine and refine their role based on the progress in both research fields. We present the current set of critical challenges faced by the computing industry and provide a thorough review of photonic Network-on-Chip (pNoC) architectures and experimental demonstrations, concluding to the main obstacles that still impede the materialization of these concepts. We propose the employment of optics in chip-to-chip (C2C) computing architectures rather than on-chip layouts toward reaping their benefits while avoiding technology limitations on the way to manycore set-ups. We identify multisocket boards as the most prominent application area and present recent advances in optically enabled multisocket boards, revealing successful 40 Gb/s transceiver and routing capabilities via integrated photonics. These results indicate the potential to bring energy consumption down by more than 60% compared to current QuickPath Interconnect (QPI) protocol, while turning multisocket architectures into a single-hop low-latency setup for even more than four interconnected sockets, which form currently the electronic baseline. We go one step further and demonstrate how optically-enabled eight-socket boards can be combined via a 256 × 256 Hipoλaos Optical Packet Switch into a powerful 256-node disaggregated system with less than 335 ns latency, forming a highly promising solution for the latency-critical rack-scale memory disaggregation era. Finally, we discuss the perspective for disintegrated computing via optical technologies as a mean to increase the number of synergized high-performance cores overcoming die area constraints, introducing also the concept of cache disintegration via the use of future off-die ultrafast optical cache memory chiplets.

© 2018 IEEE

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