Optical Switches Boost Routing by Three Orders of Magnitude in Data Center Network

Achievement date: 

Data centers could better meet the growing demands for moving vast amounts of information through a new hybrid network developed at the Center for Integrated Access Networks (CIAN), an NSF-funded Engineering Research Center (ERC) with headquarters at the University of Arizona. The network is the first of its kind to use optics for routing inside a data center.


Today data centers are electronic systems that are difficult to scale. CIAN is doing research to introduce optics in data centers to remove existing bottlenecks. With higher speed and more advanced optical capabilities such as wavelength routing, optics will be able to find wider use in data centers, unlocking greater efficiency and scalability. Data centers will be able to handle larger amounts of data, helping them keep pace with the growing data demands.


Called MORDIA (Microsecond Optical Research Datacenter Interconnect Architecture), the hybrid network uses an optical circuit switched (OCS) architecture based on a wavelength-selective switch (WSS). The new switch has a mean host-to-host network reconfiguration time of 11.5 µs, three orders of magnitude faster than the system that CIAN reported several years ago that used a 25 ms 3D micro-electromechanical (MEMS) space switch, now the state of the art in commercial systems.

Higher speed capability means more applications can benefit from the efficiency and scalability of optical switching. This year the hybrid switching control was implemented in FPGA hardware to enable a flexible research platform for the study of real time hybrid switching control planes. This data center testbed capability is being used in other research programs that investigate higher layer functionality.