Friday, August 17, 2007

Proximity a step nearer

It's still too early to say whether or when Sun could turn Proximity into a useful product, but the company disclosed a milestone in its research today based on a paper for next week's Hot Chips conference. Proximity is Sun's concept for a high bandwidth, ultra dense chip interconnect using capacitive coupling. The latest advance takes the form of a multi-chip module package that solves the problem of aligning as many as 72 signal pads.

Sun's work on a four-port 10 Gbit Ethernet switch was a good vehicle for vaulting some of the semiconductor manufacturing and packaging hurdles in the technology's way. But until the research can be scaled up to a proof of concept that shows promise for commercial products, Proximity remains a fascinating idea. It may take a few more years of work to determine whether it could be a viable alternative to today's copper or tomorrow's optical chip-to-chip alternatives.

It's too bad Sun didn't get the Darpa HPCS contract to pursue Proximity as part of its supercomputer bid. But a separate team at Sun is also looking at how Proximity could be used in tandem with optical interconnects so this soup continues to cook.

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