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IBM Optical Chip Zips Huge Files Using Little Power 95

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the zip-without-the-zap dept.
An anonymous reader wrote to mention that IBM has unveiled a new prototype chip that can transmit data at up to 8 TB/sec, or about 5,000 high-def video streams. While this might not be entirely amazing, the fact that they did it using the same amount of juice required to light a 100-watt lightbulb, is. "The resulting total bi-directional data transfer rate is 300 Gb/s, nearly doubling the performance of a version IBM introduced last year. Compared to current commercial optical modules the transceiver provides 10-fold greater bandwidth in 1/10 the volume while consuming comparable power, IBM said."
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IBM Optical Chip Zips Huge Files Using Little Power

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 01, 2008 @03:34AM (#22608624)
    100 watts? Anybody want to check my math?
  • Juice! (Score:5, Funny)

    by kevmatic (1133523) on Saturday March 01, 2008 @03:36AM (#22608638)
    The same amount of juice to power a 100-watt light bulb!?

    That's like... 100 Watts!

    Unless you go compact florescent. Then its like 15watt.
    • Re:Juice! (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 01, 2008 @05:16AM (#22608894)
      Maybe it was written by one of these people: [upenn.edu]. (Or maybe I just wanted an excuse to post the link).

      "He was as tall as a six-foot-three-inch tree"

      "The red brick wall was the color of a brick-red Crayola crayon."

      "John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met."
    • by autocracy (192714)
      Measured from the power company... :)

      *waits for the comment "it's the same 100 watts..."*

    • by TooTechy (191509)
      Yep. I can see one of these puppies in my laptop.

      The 160W power supply might cost a pretty penny. But then, if we need the PSU for Blu Ray? What's the difference?
    • by vanyel (28049) *
      ...which explains why optical computing hasn't caught on if it's that power hungry!
    • by dulridge (454779)
      Stuff that!
      CFL marketing claims are one thing, light meters are another...

      Say 25W and you get closer, but not there. 30W CFLs probably exceed 100W incandescent lightbulbs, lower wattage ones don't. Speaking as the guy who still tries to find 200W incandescent bulbs which used to be easy to find and now aren't findable at all.
    • no, the 100w fluourescent bulb equiv. is 25 watts (General Electric) but whatev
  • by l00sr (266426) on Saturday March 01, 2008 @03:47AM (#22608658)
    Let's see... how much power does it take to power a 100-Watt light bulb... hm... Well, according to Wikipedia, a 100-Watt incandescent lightbulb outputs about 1700 lumens. A quick googling reveals that the average incandescent bulb achieves a lighting efficiency of roughly 15.75 lumens per Watt. A simple calculation then yields that the power used by a 100-Watt light bulb is roughly 107.93 Watts. Q.E.D.
  • I dunno - power usage aside, 300gbps isn't something to be sniffed at. I could see this device taking pride of place in some geek's fileserver, for example - I'd imagine being able to max out a few 1gpbs links to the server would be very handy for things like a mythtv server, or ripping hidef video directly to the network server.

    I know I'm interested!
  • A hundred watts, that's all good and well, but what does it have to do with zipping huge files? Or am I reading impaired?
    • by UncleTogie (1004853) * on Saturday March 01, 2008 @04:40AM (#22608822) Homepage Journal

      A hundred watts, that's all good and well, but what does it have to do with zipping huge files? Or am I reading impaired?

      My bet is on someone using the word "zip" somewhat like Ballmer used "squirt", i.e., to send quickly...

      • by macslas'hole (1173441) on Saturday March 01, 2008 @04:47AM (#22608838)

        Ballmer used "squirt"

        Please, Mr. Ballmer, don't squirt me!...

        YUCK!

        The mental image of Sweaty MonkeyBoy and the work squirt should never be in the vicinity of each other. It is an abomination.
      • I was worried this was going to turn into an issue, with the usual trolls espousing one or the other of the other annoying compression formats like lharc or 7zip. Or whatever is the newest and greatest 'hot-dog' compression format the warez cowboys are using to distinguish themselves as superior to the rest of us. I ran into a new one just the other week. Thank goodness pkgsrc rescued me.
    • by evanbd (210358) on Saturday March 01, 2008 @04:42AM (#22608828)
      High-speed networking takes a non-trivial amount of power to drive the signals, be they electrical or optical. Especially for optical devices, the efficiency in getting that power onto the transmission medium is low. At high enough speeds, there are also a lot of high speed transistors switching in the control logic that use power for the same reasons as your CPU. So, they've improved the power consumption in these and other areas.
      • High-speed networking takes a non-trivial amount of power to drive the signals, be they electrical or optical. Especially for optical devices, the efficiency in getting that power onto the transmission medium is low. At high enough speeds, there are also a lot of high speed transistors switching in the control logic that use power for the same reasons as your CPU. So, they've improved the power consumption in these and other areas.

        My quibble is with "IBM Optical Chip Zips Huge Files". Made me think IBM had some specialized compression photonic chips.

      • Say what? The losses for light propagating in fibers is about 0.2 dB/km for modern single-mode silica fibers. That's pretty darn efficient. And typically, the reflected power is about 4% of the incident power and a glass to air interface. Many lasers for (current) optical transmission are under 10 watts. If IBM has gotten the speed they got for 100watts that's impressive.

        As for equipment, Optical switches use a couple Watts, optical routers aren't that bad, I can spec a system of about 2.5Tbps (Juniper T-se
        • by evanbd (210358)

          The inefficiency, AIUI, is in the electrical -> optical energy conversion, not anything in the purely optical domain. If you need 100mW of optical power, it takes a lot more electrical power to get it. I don't know exact numbers off hand, or even how much power is typical (I'm not a networking guy, but I've looked at diode lasers for other purposes before).

          I assumed there wasn't any discrete circuitry beyond perhaps the optical component and a temperature controller if there is one. It's the ASIC I

    • by Plutonite (999141)
      Yeah, I was about to say that if they can zip huge files while using power "like a 100-watt lightbulb" then why the hell can't they unzip them just as effortlessly? Or even better, why can't they play Crysis or run Vista while using the said likeliness of lightbulb consumption? Or do you automatically need more power (lots of lighbulb-watt stuff) for Vista? Is running Vista like running a Christmas tree compared to the lightbulb of file zipping? This is just so unfair, and I hope Ballmer squirts some educat
      • I hope Ballmer squirts some education into the summary writer's mail box. I am so not going to RTFA.

        LOL LOL LOL ROFL
        You, Sir, have made beer come out my nose. I bow before your exquisite hilarity.
      • Well, I can zip files with an 8088 processor, or even a pathetic little 6502. I'm not sure the algorhythm would fit onto a PIC10F200 though. It's all a matter of how slow you want the compression to run. It could probably be done with a homebrew computer that uses vaccum tubes so that it would consume 8000 watts and take 40 minutes to 'zip' a 532 byte text file.

        If Balmer squirts on that one, though, he risks shattering the glass envelopes on the tubes. In particular stay away from the very hot gas refer
    • This story was one of the first things I looked at this morning, and I misread the title as "IBM optical chip zips huge flies" which sounded kind of weird in a cyborg sort of way.

      And now parent post talks of zipping huge flies, which sounds kind of weird with a hint of goatse.

      <!--
      note to self:
      Don't read slashdot before coffee
      -->

    • by Dun Malg (230075)

      A hundred watts, that's all good and well, but what does it have to do with zipping huge files? Or am I reading impaired?

      No, you're reading fine. The problem is that ScuttleMonkey (or whomever wrote the headline) is a fucking illiterate moron. They used the verb "to zip" to mean "send", when it has no such meaning in regular speech. Now, it's usually acceptable to bend meanings for words and use their context as a clue, but in this case the verb "to zip" already has a common meaning in the computer world (i.e. to compress using the ZIP format developed by Phil Katz), so it's contextual meaning is overridden by its common mea

  • by Anonymous Coward
    What the hell are you doing to the language of Shakespeare? Did you translate the submission from German?

    While this might not be entirely amazing, the fact that they did it using the same amount of juice required to light a 100-watt lightbulb, is.
  • IBM Rocks! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by The_Dougster (308194) on Saturday March 01, 2008 @03:56AM (#22608708) Homepage

    Even though a lowly peon like myself can barely aspire to ever own much real IBM hardware, I have to say they really make some great stuff. Since my P20 monitor finally died, all I have now is an IBM Z50 Workpad, which is a pretty sweet little thing.

    I had a RS/6000 briefly, I experimented with running Debian on it. It was some impressive metal, but AIX ran circles around Debian and the graphics was unsupported in Linux. I sold it for more than I payed for it and kept the P20 monitor for free. I ran that monitor for about 5 years.

    IBM hardware has always been esoteric, fantastically expensive, and of supreme quality; however, they are just a bit out of touch with regular lusers. For instance, why can't we buy a workstation with a CELL chip even now? We know it could run Linux, easily. Why are we forced to fool around with PS3 consoles when Big Blue could be making the next best thing since the IBM PC?

    I'd seriously consider spending $5k for a spiffy IBM cell box running AIX or Linux as long as it could run a PCIe OpenGL card. Heck, I'd take it if it came with OS/2 even!

    • by kestasjk (933987)
      Software that's custom made for the cell chip barely exploits all the parallel compute power, so I doubt gcc would compile Linux to make use of it (if it can even compile to cell, which I'm not sure of).
      • Re:IBM Rocks! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by BiggerIsBetter (682164) on Saturday March 01, 2008 @07:24AM (#22609188)

        Software that's custom made for the cell chip barely exploits all the parallel compute power, so I doubt gcc would compile Linux to make use of it (if it can even compile to cell, which I'm not sure of).
        IOW, you have no idea what you're talking about. :-) There are out-of-the-box distributions of Linux for Cell platforms (Yellow Dog, Fedora, Ubuntu even), and the gcc supplied in IBM's SDK is quite happy to compile for the PPE and SPE cores. Yes, I've played with all this on the PS/3. PCI and Blade hardware is available from Mercury and IBM, but it's pricey... you could drop one of Mercury's Cell PCI cards into a small IBM xSeries...

        Anyway, I agree with the OP, this is a killer chip for many many of the applications we use today, and IBM should talk Lenovo (or, oh please, SUN) into selling a Cell-based Linux (or, oh please, Solaris) workstation. That would be ridiculous for software development if it had a Java SDK to go with it.
        • by Garridan (597129)
          Workstation? How bout a Cell-based thinkpad? Especially the little one they want to pit against the Air. You'd need an external battery, but it would be *so* worth it. I'm still annoyed by the complete lack of quad-core laptops (except for the $3000, 50lb XTremeNotebook) out there. A Cell-based mini-thinkpad would save the frikkin' day!
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Oddster (628633)

          Software that's custom made for the cell chip barely exploits all the parallel compute power, so I doubt gcc would compile Linux to make use of it (if it can even compile to cell, which I'm not sure of).

          IOW, you have no idea what you're talking about. :-) There are out-of-the-box distributions of Linux for Cell platforms (Yellow Dog, Fedora, Ubuntu even), and the gcc supplied in IBM's SDK is quite happy to compile for the PPE and SPE cores. Yes, I've played with all this on the PS/3. PCI and Blade hardware is available from Mercury and IBM, but it's pricey... you could drop one of Mercury's Cell PCI cards into a small IBM xSeries...

          Anyway, I agree with the OP, this is a killer chip for many many of the applications we use today, and IBM should talk Lenovo (or, oh please, SUN) into selling a Cell-based Linux (or, oh please, Solaris) workstation. That would be ridiculous for software development if it had a Java SDK to go with it.

          You're both half-wrong. Yes, you can get Linux running on a Cell just fine. No, software that was not written specifically with the Cell in mind (read: almost everything) uses the co-processors (SPU/SPE whatever) anywhere near capacity. And in fact, almost all of the software that is written for the Cell processor still doesn't use the co-processors anywhere near capacity. It is a very difficult platform to program for, and because of the inherent design of the Cell, it simply performs poorly compared

          • You're both half-wrong. Yes, you can get Linux running on a Cell just fine. No, software that was not written specifically with the Cell in mind (read: almost everything) uses the co-processors (SPU/SPE whatever) anywhere near capacity. And in fact, almost all of the software that is written for the Cell processor still doesn't use the co-processors anywhere near capacity. It is a very difficult platform to program for, and because of the inherent design of the Cell, it simply performs poorly compared to SMP for a large class of problems. And by difficult, I mean that you have to sit there trying to figure out how to fit your 17k of code and 512k of data into a unified 256k buffer (information theory comes in handy), because going outside the local buffer and using DMA is not only a huge pain in the ass to code up, it is also a huge performance hit. Programming for the Cell is a step backwards from the ideal computer science goal of abstracting the hardware from the code.

            I work in the games industry, and I recently saw the performance timer graphs of a very popular racing game that was very recently released for the PS3, a second-generation PS3 title. It was using the co-processors at about 10% of their capacity, and that only came in regular-interval spikes. And this is a piece of software that the Cell was specifically designed to run.

            Interesting to hear a perspective from the gaming industry. Disappointing results though, as someone who's played with the Cell in an academic environment.

    • by DrSkwid (118965)
      Yeah, MCA was the dogs, XGA is amazing

    • My RS/6000 box is a Power 1 system with the microchannel bus. Rumor has it that it was fantastically expensive once. I'd shy away from saying it is 'impressive metal' at this point. Nice heavy steal chassis, but it sure can't outcrank my SparcServer 1000 (4 cpus!).

      I also have an IBM PC Convertible. It does a fairly unimpressive job of running Minix, if you really want.
    • by TooTechy (191509)
      I agree. I have enjoyed using lots of IBM HW since post 1992. There was a little junk in that time frame and some seriously bad HDs. But, on the whole, SOLID!

      There have also been some RS6K laptops and from HP, some PA-RISC. They sold, but not many.

      The market just ain't big enough!
    • by Hollinger (16202)

      I'd seriously consider spending $5k for a spiffy IBM cell box running AIX or Linux as long as it could run a PCIe OpenGL card. Heck, I'd take it if it came with OS/2 even!

      Actually, you just haven't looked hard enough. :-) You can buy a QS21 "Cell Blade" for $9,995 [ibm.com]. Add $1949 for a BladeCenter S Chassis [ibm.com] and you're set.

      You can also purchase these items used for a significant discount if you look in the right places [google.com].

  • ARRRR! (Score:2, Funny)

    by eggman9713 (714915)
    Let's just hope the pirate bay doesn't get a hold of this puppy.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Someone who confuses "TB/s" vs "Tb/s" and "zips" vs "transmits" doesn't deserve to be posted.
  • 'Zips huge files' (Score:5, Insightful)

    by malakai (136531) on Saturday March 01, 2008 @04:47AM (#22608840) Journal
    I can't be the only one that clicked on this expecting some sort of hardware based compression acceleration. I expected some sort of optical take on compression.

    • Maybe you simply need a paradigm shift to grok the leverage of power words in headlines...
    • by argStyopa (232550)
      /seconded.
      This is a TECH news site, where the readers can be assumed to have a certain minimal technical acumen. The editors MUST have a basic familiarity with the jargon and glossary of technical terms of the computer field. For example, in computerese "ZIP" doesn't specifically mean 'go fast' - it refers to a specific method of data compression or the idea of compressing data generally.

      To not understand that suggests a level of editorial competence in this field below that of, oh, say Us magazine. Not
  • ... to think that 100 W for a chip is still a lot ?
    Maybe we would need a point of comparison.
    • by imsabbel (611519)
      Calculate it down:
      This would be equivalent to 125mW per Gbit ethernet port.
      IIRC, current implementations are a factor of 10-30 above that value.
  • by SkyDude (919251) on Saturday March 01, 2008 @10:20AM (#22609610)
    How many /.ers does it take to change a lightbulb?



    No one knows. Those who try keep getting electrocuted when their tinfoil hats make contact with the socket.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by maxwell demon (590494)
      But they will be able to tell you amazing things about changing light bulbs.
      You'll learn that
      • in Soviet Russia, light bulbs change YOU
      • In Korea, only old people change light bulbs
      • Netcraft confirms: light bulbs are dying
      • A reasonable business plan might look like
        1. Change light bulb
        2. ???
        3. Profit!

      Also, they'll want to know if the light bulb runs Linux, and ask you to imagine a Beowulf cluster of them.
    • How many /.ers does it take to change a lightbulb?
      The correct answer is none. /.ers don't need any lightbulb, the only light they need is the one coming from their computer monitor, and maybe from the LEDs of all their electronic gadgets.
      • by SkyDude (919251)

        How many /.ers does it take to change a lightbulb?
        The correct answer is none. /.ers don't need any lightbulb, the only light they need is the one coming from their computer monitor, and maybe from the LEDs of all their electronic gadgets.

        Ahhh.... true, it is so.

  • Let X = number of Libraries of Congress per second.

    100 Watts = 100 Joules per second

    Answer: 100/X

    Plug in X and you have your answer.
  • 90's Flashback (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Fieryphoenix (1161565) on Saturday March 01, 2008 @11:57AM (#22610012)
    Anyone else remember the dramatic claims of special chips that would "soon" allow insane levels of compression in data storage using fractal algorithms? 135 times compression, back when Stacker was was the app that saved your bacon when you ran low on disk space? That's the sort of thing I thought of when I read the headline.
    • There are at least two good reasons fractal compression 'failed' as a general compresion algorithim...

      1. It's not lossless.
      2. Someone patented it, tried to gloss over the first problem and priced it out of the market.
  • While this might not be entirely amazing, the fact that they did it using the same amount of juice required to light a 100-watt lightbulb, is.

    Dad: "That's 100 watts to you and me, Billy"
    Billy: "Wow!"
  • about 5,000 high-def video streams.
    That's great but I have to ask the question that everyone wants to know... How many libraries of congress is this?
  • I first read that headline as, "IBM Optical Chip Zaps Huge Flies." How disappointing.
  • From TFS

    can transmit data at up to 8 TB/sec
    From TFA

    could transmit up to 8 terabit/sec

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