IBM stunned the networking world late last week after setting a record for Internet data transfer speeds. They did so with a brand-new device that is able to boost speeds to up to 400 GB per second by improving data communications between data centres and cloud environments. In addition, their device can achieve these remarkable speeds even at low power.
According to sources, IBM presented their analogue-to-digital converter (ADC) at the recent International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) in San Francisco. The tests they conducted showed data transfer speeds nearly 4 times faster than anything now being used. At a maximum speed of 400 GB per second, the average ultra-HD film could be transferred over a fibre network in a matter of seconds.
IBM and its research partners have achieved their high-speed goals by creating hardware and software that can convert analogue signals into digits. Their converter can also equalise digital signals across extensive fibre networks in order to reduce bottlenecks within the system. It is similar to the idea of automating vehicle traffic on congested roads in order to prevent incidents that would disrupt traffic.
The project is being driven by the ever-increasing need for faster data speeds. Between cloud computing, virtualisation and the concept of Big Data, the amount of information being transferred across the world's networks has increased some 20 million times in the last two decades. Higher transfer speeds are essential if we are to keep up.
The trick to making ADC workable as an everyday technology is making sure it is precise. In other words, digital converters transform analogue signals to numbers based on an approximation of the correct combination of digits. If the approximation is not correct, converting the data back to a usable form at the other end becomes more difficult.
IBM hopes to increase the amount of web traffic we are capable of accommodating with their ADC technology substantially. If they succeed, they will be opening the door to many global networking possibilities.
Reaching the Limit
As technology continues to grow at breakneck speed, one must ask whether we will ever reach the limits of what we can do. For example, no mode of human transportation has an unlimited potential in terms of the speeds it can reach. At some point, every vehicle we have ever created reaches a speed at which it becomes unsafe to operate. Until we overcome some fundamental principles of design and engineering, we have reached the limit of how fast we can travel. Will we ever see that same kind of limit for data transfers?
The fact that the IBM technology approximates digital data when converting analogue signals suggests that some limits remain. Until that approximation is replaced by exact replication, there will always be some data ‘noise' capable of corrupting the stream of information. Such noise is something that cannot be afforded when you're talking about highly critical data important to things like security and financial stability. Nevertheless, we shall see…