We are on the brink of a revolution. Intel introduces the world's first optical interconnect

Intel recently introduced the world’s first optical interconnect. The company claims it’s akin to moving from horse-drawn carriages to automobiles. Here are the details:
We are on the brink of a revolution

Intel’s Innovative OCI Chiplet Technology

Intel has taken a significant step in advancing high-speed data transmission with its integrated photonics technology. The company’s Integrated Photonics Solutions (IPS) Group recently introduced the industry’s first fully integrated Optical Compute Interconnect (OCI) chiplet. Intel claims this is akin to moving from horse-drawn carriages to automobiles. This development underscores the importance of Intel’s initiative.

This chiplet, packaged alongside an Intel processor, marks a notable advancement in co-packaged optical I/O technology, addressing increasing demands for AI infrastructure in data centers and high-performance computing (HPC) applications. As data movement between servers intensifies, the optical interconnect solution becomes crucial, given the limitations of traditional I/O performance in existing data center infrastructures.

We are on the brink of a revolution_

In this context, Intel’s Optical Compute Interconnect (OCI) chiplet integrates a photonic integrated circuit (PIC) into a single device. Intel claims this technology enables higher bandwidth with lower power consumption. The company states OCI supports bidirectional data transfer speeds of up to 4 terabits per second (Tbps) over distances of up to 100 meters. Importantly, OCI is also compatible with PCIe 5.0, making adoption easier for infrastructures already using PCIe 5.0.

Motherboard PCIe slots may become obsolete

Intel also suggests that OCI chiplets could be integrated with future CPUs, GPUs, and SoCs. While currently targeting data centers and servers, there is potential for consumer solutions in the future. This could significantly alter the appearance of PCs in the coming years. Imagine installing a graphics card that doesn’t require a traditional PCIe slot—simply connect it to the motherboard with a cable. Optionally, you could place the graphics card anywhere convenient within the case or a drawer.

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Intel’s OCI Chiplet: Revolutionizing Data Transmission with Optical I/O Solutions

The current OCI chiplet introduced by Intel exists as a prototype device. Additionally, the company collaborates with customers to package OCI as an optical I/O solution alongside its own chips. This advancement in high-speed data transmission could position Intel at the forefront of evolving artificial intelligence infrastructure.

The proliferation of large language models (LLMs) and advancements in productive AI highlight the increasing global adoption of AI-based applications, necessitating more efficient and larger machine learning models. Scaling this need with current server technologies is nearly impossible or, at its simplest, impractical. We’ve heard reports of customers requesting systems with 1.2 million GPUs from AMD. Building this with existing infrastructure systems is not feasible.

Traditional I/O (copper interconnects) can provide high bandwidth and low power consumption for short distances. However, as distances increase and systems grow, efficiency decreases, necessitating dealing with unwanted latency and costs. Intel’s optical I/O solution can address infrastructure scaling demands by offering higher bandwidth, greater power efficiency, low latency, and broader accessibility. We recommend watching the explanatory video below for further insights.

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