The use of Nanophotonics to transmit data using light might soon be coming into more widespread use.

One of the fundamental problems inherent to analyzing extremely large reams of data is the “bottleneck syndrome”. In other words, as the pool of data grows larger, it is continuously forced toward the processing components which simply are not powerful enough to keep up with the pace of accumulation. Many data centers are able to handle significant amounts of information, for example, but due to the nature of data proliferation, even some of the most headstrong are finding themselves submerged, unable to keep pace with growth.

Naturally, if more powerful tools were available, this wouldn’t really be a problem, would it? Well, hold on to your hats, people, because IBM will soon be ushering in Nanophotonics, which is poised to greatly enhance the speed and fluidity of computers in general, particularly those tasked with handling big data duties.

As its name implies, Nanophotonics deals with the use of light to transmit data  and on a very small scale, of course. Recent advances in silicon chip-based research have finally made it possible to integrate optical components into the framework of electrical circuitry. Apparently, IBM has been working on this specific project for at least 10 years, and it’s just now suddenly coming to fruition.

Just how fast is this technology? In terms of chip-to-chip transfers, we’re looking at a blazingly fast 25 Gigabits per second. Likewise, the same speeds can be expected in transfers between chips and memory devices as well. However, this only scratches the surface of what might be possible with the technology; for example, it’s possible to use different wavelengths of light to transmit data across several channels at once. This would mean that it might be possible to transmit terabytes of data in mere fractions of a second! What’s more, it appears that this technology can in fact be utilized with rather conventional systems and components, which means that we won’t have to wait for newer forms of hardware to be invented (which are compatible).

Needless to say, this is a monumental breakthrough in computing technology, but also for big data, which (in all truthfulness) really needed a helping hand on a technological level. With the newfound abilities of Nanophotonic chips at play, it seems that it will not only be possible to handle the current data loads (which are continuously building up), but also those in the distant future (which will undoubtedly be even more massive in scope).

Additionally, now that this technology is on the table, the industry itself is faced with several different paths to choose from where development is concerned. If, for instance, servers and most conventional IT systems begin integrating Nanophotonics into their basic design (which is very possible), then it will certainly have an impact on the industry as a whole. Cloud computing providers could also achieve incredible things with Nanophotonics. In a nutshell, this is certainly a milestone, and just another step toward the next phase of development in computing and communications (petaflops to exaflops).

Likewise, if servers across the web were using these chips, then it’s within reason to assume that it might create a dynamic shift in other ways as well. Imagine a complete integration of this technology with that of cloud computing and big data; individuals and businesses would have access to incredibly powerful resources at extremely low prices. The truth is, Nanophotonics could very well revolutionize virtually every aspect of computing and the internet, which would in turn, revitalize the way human beings look at computers and perhaps even usher in a new technological age.

Getting back to Big Data however; it’s quite easy to see how this development would allow organizations to continuously analyze even the most gargantuan-sized data pools at near real-time speeds. In fact, once Nanophotonics become more commonplace it’s very likely that the current ‘resistance’ will be placated entirely. In other words, if there is no build-up of data to contend with in terms of ongoing processing tasks, it will be possible to accumulate even more. This might point toward a near-future where Big Data is truly allowed to blossom, edging ever more closely toward its true potential.

As businesses begin to extract real value from big data, the drive to collect more and more information from varied sources will dramatically increase. This in turn will likely lead to the creation of new sites, services and social media interactions, each offering new possibilities for the end user. At the end of the day, big data is really about creating a repository for all available or collected information which can then be broken down and analyzed in order to identify trends, patterns, and/or to support a larger hypothesis.

But big data is also the natural end-result of human interaction/activities, so dealing with it is really an unavoidable issue; the fact that additional value can be extracted from it is a big perk. The truth is, if Nanophotonics hadn’t come along (in the next several years or at all), we might have had a very big problem on our (collective) hands with no cost-effective way of dealing with it.

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