CNET.com recently reported that for the past 7 years, a company called Lightfleet has been working on a way to replace the cabling and switches used in blade environments with light, and in fact has already delivered a prototype to Microsoft Labs. As the CNET article puts it, “No matter how fast the chips and memory inside servers get, there is always the challenge of how fast one can connect the different nodes together. And, historically, the more nodes you put in a blade server, the more complex that job of interconnection gets.” Traditionally, in blade designs, data is passed from one server to the next through the integrated switch which then routes the various signals, in the “light” model, Lightfleet’s servers broadcast the signal to all the others, and each server can receive the signal sent by every other node’s transmitters.
According to Lightfleet.com, Lightfleet’s Direct Broadcast Optical Interconnect (DBOI) is the first simultaneous, all-to-all, optical (light) interconnect technology. It speeds the flow of data between “nodes” (such as multiple processors inside a server), thus eliminating any bottlenecks that today’s switches and other interconnects introduce due to their hierarchical structure. DBOI greatly reduces the number of required cables and external switches. The result is increased communication speed, better reliability, lower operational costs, lower capital costs, lower cooling costs, and lower electrical power costs.
What’s the Big Deal?
This new technology innovation will create a fundamental change in how computing can be done in blade servers. Traditionally programmers have had to build in delays in their applications so the hardware can keep up. DBOI allows direct communication to all connected devices without the wait for a “dial tone” typically imposed by today’s interconnect technologies therefore all nodes can see all data, all the time, while continuously and simultaneously broadcasting. This will also drastically reduce the power required for communications between devices such as processors, computers and storage devices, which could potentially lower the overall power requirement needed by a blade environment.
Very interesting idea. I wonder which of the Big 4 (Cisco, Dell, IBM or HP) will adopt this technology first.