Click here for information on the project kickoff meeting (Nov. 6, 2013)
Ever-larger data centers are powering the cloud computing revolution, but the scale of these installations is currently limited by the ability to provide sufficient internal network connectivity. Delivering scalable packet-switched interconnects that can support the continually increasing data rates required between literally hundreds of thousands of servers is an extremely challenging problem that is only getting harder. We propose to address this impending crisis by departing from today's electrically packet-switched technology and adopt the superior power and cost scaling enabled by optical circuit switching.
In this project, we leverage microsecond optical circuit-switch technology to develop a hybrid switching paradigm that spans the gap between traditional circuit switching and full-fledged packet switching, achieving a level of performance and scale not previously attainable. We are building a hybrid switch whose optical switching capacity is orders of magnitude larger than the electrical packet switch, yet whose performance from an end-to-end perspective is largely indistinguishable from a giant (electrical) packet switch. Fully realizing this vision, however, requires a substantial change in how data centers are networked--not just in the link technology, but encompassing the entire stack from the end-host protocol layers through the network interface card (NIC) to the top-of-rack switch (TOR) and beyond. As part of this project, we seek to understand the scope of this impact on network and server architecture design.