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  • DARPA Funds Packet Router Team
May 2004
SANTA BARBARA, Calif., May 3 -- A team of researchers in industry and higher education, led by a group at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has been awarded major financial support by the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) Microsystems Technologies Office to develop new technologies to advance optical router capacity far beyond the current state of the art. The team has been awarded $6.3 million for the first phase of its research, with optional phases that raise the total to $15.8 million.

The team is known as LASOR, for label switched optical router, and is made up of researchers from several leading technology companies -- Agility Communications, Calient Networks, Cisco Systems Inc. and JDS Uniphase -- as well as Stanford University and UC Santa Barbara. Their work will be supported over four years by the DARPA Microsystems Technologies Office's Data in the Optical Domain program, managed by Jagdeep Shah.

The team plans to develop and demonstrate all-optical technologies and systems that route data packets, the currency of the Internet, with no optical-to-electrical conversion. The potential payoff of avoiding optical-to-electrical conversions is to greatly increase the data speed and significantly reduce power requirements over today's approaches. The collaboration is expected to open new possibilities for the distribution of rich data, voice and video content at vastly greater speeds and using less power.

"Imagine a data stream greater than 10,000 feature-length films blasting through an optical router in one second," said Daniel Blumenthal, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at UC Santa Barbara and leader of the research team. The research, he said, will seek "to revolutionize optical integration density and develop new technologies to advance optical router capacity beyond 100 Tb/s, or about 100 times the capacity of current state-of-the-art routers."

One of the key technologies that will be used is the tunable all-optical wavelength converter, an integrated device that acts as a "tunable photon copier" to direct packets through the router using the color of light itself. The team's ultimate goal is to shrink the size of state-of-the-art routers that occupy a full 7-foot equipment rack today to a single linecard. To achieve this goal, the LASOR team will push the boundary of how many optical devices can be integrated onto a single chip, ushering optics from the equivalent of electronics of the 1950s to the electronic revolution of the '60s and '70s.

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