Intel and Corning Just Turned the Data Center Upside Down

Corning and Intel are selling a brand new fiber connection that promises to remove networking bottlenecks from data centers everywhere.

Mar 15, 2014 at 3:00PM
Mxc

MXC connector and a regular ballpoint pen. 64 fibers don't have to be bulky. Image source: Intel.

If you thought that Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) was a one-trick pony, you've got another think coming. Sure, Intel's wheelhouse is in PC and server processors, but the CPU giant is also big in high-speed networking. This week, Intel started shipping a brand new class of ultra-fast fiber optic cables, co-developed with Corning (NYSE:GLW).

The so-called MXC connector sits at the end of a Corning-branded fiber bundle, containing up to 64 fiber-optic cables. Together, these bundles can deliver a bandwidth of 1.6 terabits per second in total, split between 32 incoming and 32 outgoing fibers.

The cables and connectors are comparable to good old Ethernet equipment in size, and Corning engineered the included ClearCurve fiber to handle tight bends and long cable runs without losing signal.

Clearcurve

Image source: Intel promotional videos.

These cables are marketed to computing environments with very high bandwidth needs. Two obvious targets would be cloud computing data centers and moden supercomputers, both of which depend on connecting many separate systems into a coherent whole.

These cables will also work wonders for distributed storage systems, like storage area networks, network attached storage, and even wide area storage networks. Furthermore, Internet service providers and hosting hotels could use them to remove networking bottlenecks across their local data centers. Finally, the MXC standard could replace interconnect solutions like PCI Express cabling.

Pci Express And Mxc

MXC versus an old PCI Express cable. Image source: Intel.

Corning came up with the new connector, guided by Intel's specifications, and developed a cable to match. Intel's contribution here is in the controller chips, managing the laser pulses that travel over the cabling. It's a high-bandwidth solution that will put current computing systems to the test, and should keep local networking from becoming a bottleneck for the foreseeable future.

Since MXC is intended to become an industry standard, Intel and Corning aren't keeping this technology to themselves. Connectors and cables will also ship from TE Connectivity (NYSE:TEL) and privately held Molex in the first wave, with more to come. It's a natural fit for TE, formerly known as Tyco Electronics, which makes its hay in exactly the kind of electronics interconnection products that Corning and Intel just pushed to the limit.

Ethernet and simple single-channel fiber aren't going away anytime soon, but this product line is the first step into the next generation of super-fast data transfers.

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Anders Bylund owns shares of Intel. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Amazon.com, Corning, and Intel. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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