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Green technology for data centers: Ultra-low Power 100 Gbps ethernet integrated circuit developed

Daejeon, Republic of Korea, November 25, 2013 Each day, billions of people surf the Internet for information, entertainment, and educational content. The Internet contains an immeasurable amount of information and knowledge generated every minute all around the world that is readily available to everyone with a click of a computer mouse. The real magic of the Internet, however, lies in data centers, where hundreds of billions of data are stored and distributed to designated users around the clock.

Today, almost every business or organization either has its own data centers or outsources data center services to a third party. These centers house highly specialized equipment responsible for the support of computers, networks, data storage, and business security. Accordingly, the operational cost of data centers is tremendous because they consume a large amount of electricity.

Data centers can consume up to 100 times more energy than a standard office building. Data center energy consumption doubled from 2000 to 2006, reaching more than 60 billion kilowatt hours per year. If the current usage and technology trends continue, the energy consumption of data centers in the US will reach 8% of the country's total electric power consumption by 2020.

A research team at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) and Terasquare, Inc., a spin-off company of the university, developed an extremely low-powered integrated circuit for Ethernet that consumes less than 0.75W of electricity but is able to send and receive data at the high speed of 100 gigabits per second (Gbps). The research team, headed by Hyeon-Min Bae, assistant professor of electrical engineering at KAIST, claims that the new microchip uses only one-third of the electricity consumed by the currently installed chips at data centers, thereby helping the centers to save energy.

Integrated circuits are embedded on communication modules that are inserted into a line card. Data centers have numerous line cards to build a network including routers and switches. Currently, 8W ICs are the most common in the market, and they consume a lot of energy and require the largest modules (112 cm2 of CFP), decreasing the port density of line cards and, thus, limiting the amount of data transmission.

The ultra-low-power-circuit, 100-gigabit, full-transceiver CDR, is the world's first solution that can be loaded to the smallest communication modules (20 cm2 of CFP4 or 16 cm2 of QSFP28), the next-generation chips for data centers. Compared with other chip producers, the 100 Gbps CDR is a greener version of the technology that improves the energy efficiency of data centers while maintaining the high speed of data transmission.

Professor Hyeon-Min Bae said, "When we demonstrate our chip in September of this year at one of the leading companies that manufacture optical communication components and systems, they said that our product is two years ahead of those of our competitors. We plan to produce the chip from 2014 and expect that it will lead the 100 Gbps Ethernet IC market, which is expected to grow to USD 1 billion by 2017."

The commercial model of the IC was first introduced at the 39th European Conference and Exhibition on Optical Communication (ECOC), the largest optical communication forum for new results and developments in Europe, held from September 22-26 at ExCeL London, an international exhibition and convention center.

Professor Bae added, "We received positive responses to our ultra-low-power 100-Gbps Ethernet IC at the ECOC. The chip will be used not only for a particular industry but also for many of next-generation, super-high-speed information communications technologies, such as high-speed USB, high-definition multimedia interface (HDMI), and TV interface."

Before joining KAIST, Hyeon-Min Bae worked for many years at Finisar as a researcher who designed and developed the world's first super-high-speed circuit, the 100 Gbps Ethernet IC.


Contact: Lan Yoon
The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST)

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