First optical interconnect for CXL data centre architectures

First optical interconnect for CXL data centre architectures

Technology News |
By Nick Flaherty

Lightelligence has launched the first optical communications hardware designed for PCIe and Compute Express Link (CXL) connectivity in the data centre.

The Photowave Optical Networking (oNET) transceiver was demonstrated by Lightelligence at the Flash Memory Summit this week in Santa Clara, California.

As compute and memory stranding becomes an increasingly costly issue for data center workloads, the industry-backed CXL standard enables the disaggregation of compute, accelerator, and memory resources to reduce stranding of resources while improving infrastructure efficiency. The current Ethernet-based infrastructure carries too much latency overhead to enable this disaggregation.

Photowave provides a solution by interconnecting remote devices together using CXL over lower-latency fiber optic cable, extending reach to enable memory pooling at pod scales and beyond. This facilitates scalable CXL fabrics in the composable data center.

The technology has various form factors, including a standard PCIe card, OCP 3.0 SFF card, and an active optical cable to deploy CXL infrastructure. The devices can be used in server platforms, CXL switches, memory appliances and xPU accelerators.

The PCIe card follows Lightelligence’s introduction of Hummingbird, an Optical Network-on-Chip (oNOC) processor for domain-specific artificial intelligence (AI) workloads and PACE, the world’s first integrated photonic computing system for Optical Multiply Accumulate (oMAC).

“Photowave will soon set the standard for workload efficiency. It makes it possible to build scalable computing and accelerator pods with just the right amount of resources,” said Yichen Shen, CEO of Lightelligence.

Photowave enables CXL 2.0/PCIe Gen 5 connectivity over optics with support for x16, x8, x4 and x2 bifurcation modes of operation, allowing for a wide variety of deployment scenarios. In addition to high-speed electrical-to-optical conversion for the data signals, Photowave also supports sideband signals over optics making it possible to implement more efficient and reliable disaggregation architectures.

“As the insatiable demand for memory both in capacity and bandwidth continues, optical connectivity will play a critical role in making it easier for compute to have scalable access to memory,” says Charles Fan, CEO and co-founder of MemVerge. “Lightelligence’s Photowave CXL over optics technology and products, together with our Memory Machine software, will enable highly efficient usage of memory for next-generation AI/ML workloads.”

Photowave is now available for customer trials and deployments.

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