IBM, Agilent Advance Optical Interconnects with $30 Million Program

9/15/2003 - IBM and Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A) announced that they are teaming up to advance the performance of optical interconnects as part of a multi-year, $30 million project with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Optical interconnects transmit data using lightwaves over fiber optics rather than electrical signals over copper, enabling data to be transmitted at higher speeds and lower power. This program is expected to bring the benefits of optical interconnects, currently used for communications between systems, into the servers themselves.

The total communications bandwidth inside servers has been increasing by roughly 10 times every four years due to increasing chip speeds and the number of processors per system. By 2010, this would require a bandwidth of about 40 terabits per second (Tbps) between microprocessors. Agilent and IBM plan to develop optical-interconnect technology that delivers this bandwidth in time to meet this need while simultaneously addressing power, cost, density, and reliability issues.

“This program could greatly accelerate the introduction of optical interconnects into the heart of computer and communications systems, well beyond today’s cabled rack-to-rack technology, by focusing on high levels of integration and increased per-channel speed to reduce power and cost,” said Dr. Marc Taubenblatt, senior manager of optical communications at IBM Research. “Furthermore, by drawing on the substantial manufacturing and systems experience of Agilent and IBM, we plan to develop solutions that can be readily integrated into future products.”

“The real goal of this program is to reach terabit-per-second speeds in a form factor small enough to enable chip-to-chip interconnects,” said Dr. Waguih Ishak, director of the Communications and Optics Research Laboratory at Agilent. “This will only be achieved by developing miniature optical components, pushing their operating speeds to 40 gigabits per second (Gbps) and higher, and by clever integration and packaging techniques. By combining the talents of IBM and Agilent, these goals can be achieved.”

Key goals of IBM and Agilent’s program include:

The program will leverage IBM’s expertise in optical modules and links, heterogeneous system on package, card design and computer systems, and Agilent’s experience in optoelectronic devices and transceiver modules. The team is expected to demonstrate the enormous communication bandwidths needed for future servers such as those under the DARPA High Productivity Computing Systems (HPCS) initiative. IBM’s HPCS project (called PERCS, or “Productive, Easy-to-use, Reliable Computing System”) will investigate the use of hundreds or thousands of terabit-class optical interconnects to overcome the bandwidth limitation of today’s server interconnects. In military systems, the on-board signal processing requirements associated with sensing and communication has been growing rapidly. These applications require massive data movement between multiple processors and between processors and memory. The use of optical interconnects at the module level is expected to improve the performance while reducing hardware by making more efficient use of electronic processing hardware.

About IBM’s Research Division
IBM is a recognized industry leader in integrated circuits, electronic packaging, and optical link design. IBM Research has made numerous contributions to these areas, including: leading edge CMOS and SiGe technology, advanced microprocessor design and high speed electrical and optical i/o circuits, high performance electrical, thermal and mechanical packaging for supercomputers, 10G Ethernet standards, and 1G and 10G Ethernet optical module technology.

IBM Research is the world’s largest information technology research organization, with more than 3,000 scientists and engineers at eight labs in six countries. IBM has produced more research breakthroughs than any other company in the IT industry. For more information on IBM Research, visit

About Agilent Laboratories
Agilent Laboratories, formerly part of Hewlett-Packard Laboratories, is one of the leading technological research centers in the world. Based in Palo Alto, Calif., Agilent Laboratories draws on the talents of more than 300 researchers and support staff. It conducts applied research in communications, electronics, the life sciences and measurement; fundamental research in bioscience, fiber optics, materials, microelectronics, micromechanical systems and optoelectronics; and basic research. Agilent Laboratories is focused on driving growth and profit for Agilent’s businesses through technology innovation. Information about Agilent Laboratories can be found at

About Agilent Technologies
Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A) is a global technology leader in communications, electronics, life sciences and chemical analysis. The company’s 30,000 employees serve customers in more than 110 countries. Agilent had net revenue of $6 billion in fiscal year 2002. Information about Agilent is available on the Web at

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