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Quantum Leap: Data Centers Thrive on Turbocharged Fiber-Optic Networks

Quantum Leap: Data Centers Thrive on Turbocharged Fiber-Optic Networks

As new technologies place increased demand on data centers, companies are experimenting with a new generation of superfast fiber-optic networks.

Quantum Corridor, a Midwestern US fiber-optic network, has joined an expanding group of infrastructure organizations aiming to take data center connectivity speeds to the next level following the recent launch of one of the fastest fiber-optic networks in the Western Hemisphere.

With the assistance of a $4 million grant from the state of Indiana, the network recently accomplished lightning-fast data transfer speeds of 40 Tbps during its first transmissions from the Chicago ORD 10 Data Center to an IT facility in Hammond, Indiana. This is equivalent to transmitting 1,500 hours of video per second and is more than 1,000 times faster than conventional networks, which typically advertise multi-Gbps speeds.

The networking milestone comes amid increased demand for advanced data processing capabilities. In a recent report, consulting firm McKinsey & Company notes that, in the US alone, data center demand is forecast to grow by 10% a year until 2030, making the need for highly efficient and secure fiber-optic networks even more critical.

“Higher security, faster speeds, and more capacity are all going to be key targets for the data center industry as it adjusts to the demands of generative AI and increased data consumption, and quantum networks have the potential to help the industry meet those targets,” Ellie Brown, analyst at 451 Research, part of S&P Global Market Intelligence, told Data Center Knowledge.

When it comes to new, data-hungry technologies such as AI, the discourse is often focused on new chips and other hardware for training LLMs and reducing ‘next-token latency.’ However, fiber-optic networks remain an integral part of today’s digital infrastructure, not only in terms of the data that flows between IT facilities but also back and forth to end users.

After launching its network in October 2023, Quantum Corridor has purportedly become the first Tier 1 network in North America to achieve a capacity of 40 terabits per second (Tbps), with a latency of 0.266 milliseconds. This is more than 1,000 times faster than commercial fiber internet speeds in the US, which are typically advertised around 170 Mbps last year.

Quantum Corridor said the network transmission milestone will allow data centers in the Midwest to better serve their customers across a range of sectors, including finance, defense, biotech, machine learning, and AI.

Turbocharged Networks

The news comes as researchers around the world are also working to achieve record-breaking network speeds. In late 2023, engineers in Japan achieved a jaw-dropping data transmission rate of 22.9 petabits per second (Pbps) through a single optical fiber, which would surpass global internet traffic by over 20 times per second.

Likewise, China recently launched what it claims to be the world's most advanced internet network with speeds of about 1.2 Tbps. The network, developed by Huawei and China Mobile in collaboration with Beijing's Tsinghua University and Cernet, uses 1,800 miles of optic fiber cables between Beijing and Guangzhou in the south.

"The expansion of Tier 1 networks is a very positive development,” says Jonathan Burnett, systems lead at Oxford Quantum Circuits, a UK-based quantum computing research company. “The improvements in connectivity and speed are impressive, and the aspiration for data rates is particularly exciting. Although these data rates might seem excessive compared to current classical demands, such as HD movie streaming, they are expected to be on par with the requirements of future large-scale error-corrected quantum computers."

Burnett, added: “Having an infrastructure that supports both research and development, as well as high-scale, end-to-end testing of network and data-handling equipment, is a very exciting prospect. [The] expansion of carrier connection, especially that which enables development on high throughput, is likely to act as a pulling force for future data center design and location."

Commercial Latency

Quantum Corridor predicts that the next generation of multi-terabit-per-second transfer speeds will help future-proof data networks from the anticipated surge in demand, for example, enabling the Department of Defense to transmit critical data more quickly and securely, as well as facilitating faster reaction times for autonomous vehicles.

“Between the decreased latency and sheer speed and size of the network, Quantum Corridor is able to satisfy more customers in data centers,” said Bill Winsininski,CEO and co-founder of Cofluence, a Chicago-based data center consultancy that has been involved in the Quantum Corridor project.

“Data center customers must have advanced data processing capabilities, including more powerful CPUs and GPUs, larger and faster memory systems, and potentially quantum compute resources to efficiently manage, store, and process vast amounts of data.”

While Quantum Corridor’s announcement is promising, some experts are somewhat circumspect about how rapidly the data center industry will benefit from this research.

“Although the results documented on Quantum Corridor’s network are blazing fast, it likely won’t be rolled out extensively anytime soon,” said Brendan Fitzpatrick, general manager for the US at Onnec, a data center and IT infrastructure provider.

“It takes time to commercialize emerging technology, and early deployments will likely be focused on research and development networks – and traditional long-haul bottlenecks like transcontinental links.”

Still, for Brown at 451 Research, faster and more secure speeds from Tier 1 providers will be a boon for the data center industry in the long-term. “The advancement and rollout of new quantum networks generally should bode well for the trajectory of quantum interconnection going forward,” she said.

Article Source:
- Data Center Knowledge I "Quantum Leap: Data Centers Thrive on Turbocharged Fiber-Optic Networks" I January 18, 2024