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IBM Labs researchers break a speed record for Big Data

Could help boost internet speeds to 400Gbps at 'extremely low power'
Fri Feb 14 2014, 14:10

BOFFINS at IBM Labs claim to have broken a speed record for Big Data, which the company says could help boost internet speeds to 200 to 400Gbps using "extremely low power".

The scientists achieved the speed record using a prototype device presented at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) this week in San Francisco.

IBM ADC technology chip

Apparently the device, which employs analogue-to-digital conversion (ADC) technology, could be used to improve the transfer speed of Big Data between clouds and data centres to four times faster than existing technology.

IBM said its device is fast enough that 160GB - the equivalent of a two-hour 4K ultra-high definition (UHD) movie or 40,000 music tracks - could be downloaded in a few seconds.

The IBM researchers have been developing the technology in collaboration with Swiss research institution Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) to tackle the growing demands of global data traffic.

"As Big Data and internet traffic continues to grow exponentially, future networking standards have to support higher data rates," the IBM researchers explained, comparing data transfer per day in 1992 of 100GB to today's two Exabytes per day, a 20 million-fold increase.

IBM Big Data Chip ADC tech in hand

"To support the increase in traffic, ultra-fast and energy efficient analogue-to-digital converter (ADC) technology [will] enable complex digital equalisation across long-distance fibre channels."

An ADC device converts analogue signals to digital, estimating the right combination of zeros and ones to digitally represent the data so it can be stored on computers and analysed for patterns and predictive outcomes.

"For example, scientists will use hundreds of thousands of ADCs to convert the analogue radio signals that originate from the Big Bang 13 billion years ago to digital," IBM said.

The ADC technology has been developed as part of an international project called Dome, a collaboration between the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy (ASTRON), DOME-South Africa and IBM to build the Square Kilometer Array (SKA), which will be the world's largest and most sensitive radio telescope when it's completed.

IBM ADC chip on keyboard

"The radio data that the SKA collects from deep space is expected to produce 10 times the global internet traffic and the prototype ADC would be an ideal candidate to transport the signals fast and at very low power - a critical requirement considering the thousands of antennas which will be spread over 1,900 miles," IBM expalined.

IBM Research Systems department manager Dr Martin Schmatz said, "Our ADC supports Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) standards for data communication and brings together speed and energy efficiency at 32 nanometers, enabling us to start tackling the largest Big Data applications."

He said that IBM is developing the technology for its own family of products, ranging from optical and wireline communications to advanced radar systems.

"We are bringing our previous generation of the ADC to market less than 12 months since it was first developed and tested," Schmatz added, noting that the firm will develop the technology in communications systems such as 400Gbps opticals and advanced radars. µ


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