MEMS-based optical links reconfigure data centres on the fly

February 15, 2017 // By Julien Happich
Relying on wireless optical links steered via MEMS-mirrors, a team of computer scientists has devised a novel networking architecture for data centres, dynamically reconfigurable to accommodate inter-rack traffic in the best possibly way.

Their paper "Novel architecture for reconfigurable optical wireless networking data centers" published in the Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE) Newsroom highlights the need for flexible and adaptive network fabric in data centres while offering a lightweight and efficient solution without overprovisioning wired links.

Circumventing complex static cabling schemes, the researchers envision a network architecture that uses free-space optics communication links to create an all-wireless inter-rack fabric capable of supporting data rates in the tens of gigabit/s across large computer farms (with distances over 100m). According to the authors, the novel architecture dubbed FireFly would combine the benefits of having a low transmission power and a small interference footprint.

In the FireFly architecture, each top-of-rack (ToR) switch would have steerable free-space optical links able to connect to other ToRs, flexibly, to adapt the network to changing traffic workloads.

Schematic illustration of the FireFly architecture. FSO: Free-space optics. ToR: Top of rack.