Through silicon photonics, Intel also hopes to change the way servers are implemented in data centers. The high-bandwidth connection offered by light could decouple processing and storage units into separate boxes, while also reducing component costs by consolidating fans and power supplies. But the processor, switch and other modules would need to work together on power management, protocol support, load balancing and handshakes to make high-speed data transfers possible.
Intel has said that optical modules could support multiple protocols for data transfers, including InfiniBand, Ethernet and PCI-Express. Thunderbolt currently supports PCI-Express 2.0 and DisplayPort.
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