IBM: Prototype device supports 400 Gb/s data transfer speeds

IBM analog-to-digital converter aims at big cloud, data center transfers

IBM researchers say they have developed a prototype analog-to-digital converter (ADC) that will quadruple the transfer speeds -- 200 - 400 Gigabits per second (Gb/s) -- of huge data dumps between clouds or data centers.

IBM says the ADC could download 160 Gigabytes, the equivalent of a two-hour, 4K ultra-high definition movie or 40,000 songs, in only a few seconds.

IBM said the device is a lab prototype, but noted that a previous version of the design has been licensed to Semtech Corp, which will be incorporating the technology into communications platforms expected to be announced later this year.

Big Blue says The 64 GS/s (giga-samples per second) chips for Semtech will be manufactured at IBM's 300mm fab in East Fishkill, New York in a 32 nanometer silicon-on-insulator CMOS process and has an area of 5 mm2. This core includes a wide tuning millimeter wave synthesizer enabling the core to tune from 42 to 68 GS/s per channel with a nominal jitter value of 45 femtoseconds root mean square. The full dual-channel 2x64 GS/s ADC core generates 128 billion analog-to-digital conversions per second, with a total power consumption of 2.1 Watts., IBM stated.

An ADC converts analog signals to digital, approximating the right combination of zeros and ones to digitally represent the data so it can be stored on computers and analyzed for patterns and predictive outcomes, IBM says. 

For example, IBM said scientists will use hundreds of thousands of ADCs to convert the analog radio signals that originate from the Big Bang 13 billion years ago to digital. It's part of a collaboration called Dome between ASTRON, the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy, DOME-South Africa and IBM to develop a fundamental IT roadmap for the Square Kilometer Array (SKA), an international project to build the world's largest and most sensitive radio telescope.

+More on Network World: 10 amazing facts about the world's largest radio telescope+

The radio data that the SKA collects from deep space is expected to produce 10 times the current 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 3,000 kilometers (1,900 miles). As another way of looking at what SKA will generate, it is expected to turn out enough raw data to fill 15 million 64 GB MP3 players every day.

The device was presented at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference in San Francisco this week.

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