In this paper, the role of optical interconnects in high performance computing systems is explored. A Network-of- Workstations (NOW) consists of a collection of commodity workstations or high-end Personal Computers (PCs) interconnected with a high bandwidth Local Area Network (LAN). Due to technological advances, it has been argued that NOWs can offer cost-effective high performance computing systems, ranging from low-end interactive computing to high-end parallel computing. Over the last decade the industry has been moving in this direction: Commercial high end computing systems such as the Silicon Graphics Origin 2000 multiprocessor support up to 512 dual-processor nodes interconnected with a scalable network. In this paper, we argue that when NOWs are enhanced with a new generation of very high bandwidth optical networks, they can provide supercomputer-class performance at a fraction of the cost. We describe the architectures of ring-based and star-based multi- terabit optical networks for multiprocessor systems, and discuss their impact on system performance. These networks exploit the CMOS/VCSEL optoelectronic integrated circuit technology to yield exceptionally large bandwidths with small form factors and potentially low cost. We view these new optical networks as the key to the future evolution of multiprocessor systems, and we believe that such systems can open a new era of exceptionally high performance computing.
Ted H. Szymanski,
"High performance computing with optical interconnects", Proc. SPIE 4109, Critical Technologies for the Future of Computing, (17 November 2000); doi: 10.1117/12.409222; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.409222