Facebook, Microsoft join forces to form Co-Packaged Optics Collaboration

In order to keep pace with evolving data center and switch designs, Microsoft and Facebook have joined forces on co-packaged optics.

The two industry giants are looking to address the challenges associated with the increasing demands on data center designs, as well as the adoption of future technologies, through their Co-Packaged Optics (CPO) Collaboration.

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Facebook and Microsoft want to get ahead of any potential data center and switch issues by outlining common design elements for suppliers and the manufacturing of co-packaged optics.

"Co-packaged optics have been a hot topic in the industry, but until today there has been a lack of a cohesive end-user voices for their need," said Sameh Boujelbene, senior director, Dell'Oro Group, in a prepared statement. "The CPO Collaboration initiated by Microsoft and Facebook clearly indicates that the end-user community is ready for the industry to develop this technology."

Microsoft and Facebook said their intention over time for CPO "is to enable an open and diverse ecosystem." The two companies plan to do this by providing open specifications for design elements, including the electrical signaling interface, optical standard, optical management interface and reliability requirements.

Once those elements are nailed down, the open specifications will, ideally, enable the industry to develop new products with switch and ASIC manufacturers, optics suppliers and others that can be attached to a switch printed circuit board (PCB).

The partnership has targeted the 51T switch generation as the jumping off point for the industry adoption of co-packaged optics.

The collaboration will start by evaluating and adopting open, technical solutions that are submitted by switch and optical suppliers. In particular, the collaboration wants comprehensive proposals that cover the entire range, including packaging.

While having the backing of Facebook and Microsoft gives CPO a lot of weight, it remains to be seen whether other companies will also have some say in how the products and specifications are developed.

Vendors in the CPO value chain will need to evaluate whether putting their products and efforts towards CPO will pay off in the long run, or whether they are better off targeting other areas.

The CPO Collaboration is being developed under the auspices of the Joint Development Foundation, which is an independent nonprofit organization that provides the corporate and legal framework to enable groups to establish and operate standards and source code development collaborations.