Evolution of system embedded optical interconnect in sub-top of rack data center systems

Richard Charles Alexander Pitwon*, Anil Reddy, Aditya Jain, Kevin Gomez, Sebastian Andreas Schulz, Liam O'Faolain, Kai Wang, Allen Miller, Vivienne Davies

*Corresponding author for this work

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In this paper we review key technological milestones in system embedded optical interconnects in data centers that have been achieved between 2014 and 2020 on major European Union research and development projects. This includes the development of proprietary optically enabled data storage and switch systems and optically enabled data storage and compute subsystems. We report on four optically enabled data center system demonstrators: LightningValley, ThunderValley2, Pegasus and Aurora, which include advanced optical circuits based on polymer waveguides and fibers and proprietary electro-optical connectors. We also report on optically enabled subsystems including Ethernet-connected hard disk drives and microservers. Both are designed in the same pluggable carrier form factor and with embedded optical transceiver and connector interfaces, thus allowing, for the first time, both compute and storage nodes to be optically interchangeable and directly interconnectable over long distances. Finally, we present the Nexus platform, which allows different optically enabled data center test systems and subsystems to be interconnected and comparatively characterized within a data center test environment.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1565
Number of pages22
JournalApplied Sciences
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2022


  • Data centres
  • Integrated photonics
  • Silicon photonics
  • Fiber optics
  • Polymer waveguides
  • Co-packaged optics
  • High performance computers
  • Optical interconnects
  • Optical communications


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