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Intel and Corning Just Turned the Data Center Upside Down

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.

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.

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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Read/Post Comments (4) | Recommend This Article (5)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On March 17, 2014, at 2:26 AM, emailnodata wrote:

    glass-fiber chips, information traveling at the speed of light in a microchip.

  • Report this Comment On March 18, 2014, at 9:01 AM, mesva wrote:

    US Conec developed the MXC brand connector for Intel. See article:

    Corning, TE, and Molex will be one of the first cable assembly manufacturers for the MXC brand.

  • Report this Comment On March 20, 2014, at 12:00 PM, rcheerla wrote:

    Although the connectors have multiple suppliers, Intel is the sole supplier for the all important photonic chip. That's a bad idea for adoption. This needs to be multi-sourced for everyone's benefit including Intel's own coffers.

    This is 10ys in research at Intel, but no dates around product availability or cost?

  • Report this Comment On March 24, 2014, at 8:37 PM, danialwilson wrote:

    The Specialty Material business segment of Corning offers 150 different formulations of glass, glass ceramics and fluoride crystals to meet customers’ unique needs and generates 17% of Corning’s revenues

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Anders Bylund

Anders Bylund is a Foolish Technology and Entertainment Specialist. Where the two markets intersect, you'll find his wheelhouse. He has been an official Fool since 2006 but a jester all his life.

Hypoallergenic. Contains six flavors not found in nature. Believes in coyotes and time as an abstract.

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