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Optical switching will innovate intra data center networks [Invited Tutorial]

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Abstract

Reflecting the recent slow-down in Moore’s law and the proliferation of artificial intelligence/machine learning workloads, the performance and energy consumption of networks are becoming barriers in high-performance computing (HPC) and data centers. Optical switches are expected to break these barriers, and indeed their introduction has recently commenced in data centers. This paper discusses how optical switching technologies can innovate future intra data center networks. Hyperscale data centers are much bigger in scale, and network requirements are slightly different from those of HPC. This paper focus on data center networks, since the impact of optical technologies will be more significant in data centers than in HPC. In addition to the scale issue, important metrics to be considered for network design are traffic characteristics and latency, both of which are highlighted in this paper. For hybrid (electrical packet and optical circuit) switching networks, the target latency for the optical circuit switch network (connection setup/teardown time) is shown to be around 10 µs, and the needed technologies are clarified and verified by experiments. The optical switch can simplify the present multi-tier switching network above tier-1 switches into a single tier configuration, which is possible with the development of efficient large port count optical switches. Among the different switching architectures, combining the different dimensions of space and wavelength is shown to be one of the best solutions. Fast switching needs fast device response time. Si photonics devices using Mach–Zehnder interferometers or ring-resonator-based switches and tunable filters are the most promising candidates; they offer cost-effective mass-production and fast operation and so are excellent candidates for the optical switches envisaged. Another critical technology to maximize the benefits of optical switches is a simple and low-latency control mechanism. Different approaches have been suggested as summarized in this work. Among them, harnessing optical switch parallelism is a unique technique that matches recent advances in electrical switch chips. A fast control network is realized by using a fully decentralized and asynchronous control mechanism. A hyperscale data center offers a wide variety of services, and no one system fits all needs. Optimization of parameters is an important task for maximizing the impact of optical switching in different kinds of data centers.

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