“ The Internet has become an integral part of our society with growth in mobility, social networking and cloud computing. Data centres play a pivotal role in providing instantaneous service to meet our daily network demand and, in the process, leave behind a very large carbon footprint. The energy required for data centres accounts for two per cent of the world’s electricity consumption and is growing. The support of the Government of Canada and SDTC will enable Ranovus to build a world-class Canadian capability to tackle the energy efficiency of data centres around the world.”
When users post photos or update their status on major social networks, or when they use the “cloud” to back up their data, it creates digital traffic within data centres around the world. For every kilobit of information received on a device, 1,000 kilobits/second (kbps) of traffic is generated inside data centres. The energy required for data centres is massive and continues to grow at a rapid rate. Today, there are no power efficient, cost-effective and scalable solutions to support impending future bandwidth requirements. In this project, Ranovus brings together technologies, namely a multi-wavelength quantum dot laser (MWQDL) and silicon photonics, to streamline the way data flows through a data centre.
In today’s interconnected world, data centres touch virtually every aspect of our day-to-day lives. Social networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, big data analytics, cloud computing, and even our daily use of Smartphones, require scalable infrastructure—data centres—to keep pace with the rising demand for fast, reliable, power-efficient and cost-effective connectivity. Global data centre traffic is expected to triple by 2019 (to 10.4 billion terabytes from 3.4 billion terabytes in 2014) and currently draws more than two per cent of the world’s electric energy, accounting for nearly three per cent of the global carbon footprint. Incumbent technology is unable to keep pace with this growing demand effectively and power efficiently. Internal connectivity is limited by the capacity of the optical transceiver modules linking servers; external connectivity is limited by the cost and power consumption of existing echnologies.
Ranovus has developed a high capacity, optical-interconnect platform technology for internal and external data centre connectivity applications. It consists of a multi-wavelength laser, a set of silicon-photonics modulators, and the associated high-speed drivers and amplifiers. The use of a single laser to provide the light for multiple data streams and the integration of the modulators on a single chip are the keys to reducing cost and power consumption of the interconnect module. The modules that Ranovus has developed cost one-sixth that of existing modules and use just 15 per cent of the energy consumed by currently available options.
The Laser and Silicon Photonics
Central to the Ranovus technology is a multi-wavelength quantum dot laser (MWQDL) developed in partnership with the National Research Council of Canada and silicon photonics designed and optimized in partnership with McMaster University. The MWQDL can replace up to 100 conventional lasers, saving on cost, power consumption and size. Ranovus has been working with the NRC since early 2012 to develop a differentiated design that would increase both electrical bandwidth (how fast data can be transmitted) from 3 Gbps to 12 Gbps and optical bandwidth (how many channels can be used simultaneously) from 20 to 30 wavelengths. After several iterations and a result of its continued efforts, Ranovus is currently delivering, in a single package, a 200 Gbps transceiver module supporting a 4.8 terabit/second (Tbps) optical system over a single pair of optical fibres. Beta testing is underway now in two of the top five global-data-centre original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and Ranovus hopes to deploy the technology for field trials by the fourth quarter of 2016. Purchase orders are now being accepted for deployment of the technology in 2017, at which time additional capitalization, beyond SDTC, will be tapped to scale up manufacturing capabilities.
Initially, Ranovus intends to focus its marketing efforts on large data centres operated by companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft. Once that is achieved, the next-stage goal is for the technology to be sold to vendors that support other Tier 1 data centres and OEMs that can deploy the technology to customers and applications beyond data centres. The market for linking data centres is estimated at $12 billion, while improving connectivity within data centres is estimated at another $12 billion (where higher capacity is demanded at lower prices). Combined, the global connectivity market is estimated at $24 billion, with about 60 per cent of that total related to various optical components like the Ranovus multi-wavelength platform.