A Trillion Bits Per Second Is Within Reach

Silicon chips in internet switches and routers can't talk to one another fast enough to keep up with all the traffic. That can cause delays and glitches of various sorts. But a technology from San Jose (Calif.) startup AANetcom Inc. could vastly speed up chip-to-chip communications.

The approach goes against conventional engineering wisdom, which holds that large volumes of data can be processed more quickly when broken into parallel streams. AANetcom, which is backed by Cisco Systems Inc., found that it is more efficient to shove an ultrafast stream of data bits down one wire running between two integrated circuits than to send the same number of bits over a bundle of parallel wires. That's because parallel connections suffer from electrical leakage called "cross-talk," which can result in corrupted data.

With AANetcom's new "serial" interconnection scheme, more chips can be crammed into less space and run at higher speeds. Each link between chips carries 1.56 billion bits per second, and the technology lets multiple links run side-by-side without interference. This could lead to long-sought "terabit routers" that can handle 1 trillion bits per second.