Scientists develop chips for super fast cloud data transfers

IBM recently announced that it has developed a new technology that can be used to transfer big data between clouds and data centers four times faster than current technology.  

As big data and Internet traffic continues to grow exponentially, future networking standards have to support higher data rates. To support this increase in traffic, scientists at IBM Research and Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland have been developing ultra-fast and energy efficient analog-to-digital converter (ADC) technology that will help boost Internet speeds to between 200 and 400 gigabit/sec at extremely low power, IBM said in a statement.

An ADC converts analog signals to digital, approximating the right combination of zeros and ones to digitally represent the data so it can be stored on computers and analyzed for patterns and predictive outcomes.

“Most of the ADCs on the market today weren’t designed to handle the massive big data applications we are dealing with today — it’s the equivalent of funneling water through a straw from a fire hose,” said Dr. Martin Schmatz, systems department manager at IBM Research. “This is IBM’s first attempt at designing a new ADC that leverages a standard CMOS logic process, not only resulting in the most efficient ADC in its class, but also opening the possibility to add massive computation power for signal analysis on the same chip with the ADC.”

For example, scientists could use hundreds of thousands of ADCs to convert the analog radio signals for their work on the Square Kilometer Array (SKA), the world's largest and most sensitive radio telescope. The SKA collects analog radio data from deep space and is expected to produce 10 times the global Internet traffic. 

The prototype ADC could transport the signals quickly and at very low power — a critical requirement considering the thousands of antennas which will be spread over 1,900 miles.

While this latest technology is only a lab prototype, a previous version of the design has been licensed to Semtech Corp., a leading supplier of analog and mixed-signal semiconductors. The company is using the technology to develop advanced communications platforms expected to be announced later this year. 

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