I remember playing with a fiber-optic lamp when I was a child. As the lamp spun around spewing light of all shades and colors, I thought it was amazing. What is amazing to me today, more than two decades later, is that very similar pieces of fiber that were used in that lamp are quickly becoming the medium of choice for ultra-fast information conduits. Copper had been the primary medium for electrical data transfer for decades; however, optical interconnects will soon begin to displace the commonplace copper.
VITA, a popular standards group, has begun assembling panels of its members to start discussing how the copper to optical transition will occur. Ray Alderman, executive director of VITA, has predicted that a shift in the mil/aero market will take place in 2012. Alderman also foresees the mil/aero market leading the charge into developing new optical interconnects, as stated in one of his blogs. “It’s up to the military applications segment to initiate this move away from copper and to a new generation of pure-optical architectures and technologies,” he says.
Once again, we have reached a critical turning point in how mission-critical mil/aero systems are designed. We hit the thermal barrier in processors, so we add multiple lower-powered cores; we hit the wall in the amount of transistors that fit on a die, so we shrink the process; now, we are at the point where we are pushing too much data down the copper pipe, so we are switching to light and fiber.
It will be interesting to see how design and EDA software companies adapt to this evolving market! Mentor Graphics has always been on the bleeding-edge of the industry and I am sure optical layout design software is just around the corner. From one geek to another, I cannot wait until I can go to my local computer shop and pick up optical interconnected motherboards and components.