Optics in Computing: from photonic Network-on-Chip to Chip-to-Chip Interconnects and Disintegrated Architectures

Theonitsa Alexoudi, Nikolaos Terzenidis, Stelios Pitris, Miltiadis Moralis-Pegios, Pavlos Maniotis, Christos Vagionas, Charoula Mitsolidou, George Mourgias-Alexandris, George T. Kanellos, Amalia Miliou, Konstantinos Vyrsokinos, Nikos Pleros

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)
403 Downloads (Pure)


Following a decade of radical advances in the areas of integrated photonics and computing architectures, we discuss the use of optics in the current computing landscape attempting to re-define and refine their role based on the progress in both research fields. We present the current set of critical challenges faced by the computing industry and provide a thorough review of photonic Network-on-Chip (pNoC) architectures and experimental demonstrations, concluding to the main obstacles that still impede the materialization of these concepts. We propose the employment of optics in chip-to-chip (C2C) computing architectures rather than on-chip layouts towards reaping their benefits while avoiding technology limitations on the way to manycore set-ups. We identify multisocket boards as the most prominent application area and present recent advances in optically enabled multisocket boards, revealing successful 40Gb/s transceiver and routing capabilities via integrated photonics. These results indicate the strong potential to bring energy consumption down by more than 60% compared to current QuickPath Interconnect (QPI) protocol, while turning multisocket architectures into a single-hop low-latency setup for even more than 4 interconnected sockets, which form currently the electronic baseline. We go one step further and demonstrate how optically-enabled 8-socket boards can be combined via a 256x256 Hipo-aos Optical Packet Switch into a powerful 256-node disaggregated system with less than 335nsec latency, forming a highly promising solution for the latency-critical rack-scale memory disaggregation era. Finally, we discuss the perspective for disintegrated computing via optical technologies as a means to increase the number of synergized high-performance cores overcoming die area constraints, introducing also the concept of cache disintegration via the use of future off-die ultra-fast optical cache memory chiplets.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Lightwave Technology
Early online date15 Oct 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 15 Oct 2018


  • Computer architecture
  • computing architectures
  • disintegrated computing
  • macrochip
  • multisocket boards
  • Network-on-Chip
  • Optical interconnections
  • optical memory
  • optical packet switch
  • Optical packet switching
  • Optics
  • Photonics
  • rack-scale disaggregation
  • Silicon
  • silicon photonics
  • System-on-chip


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