The growing popularity of cloud and multimedia services is dramatically increasing the traffic volume that each data center needs to handle. This is driving the demand for highly scalable, flexible, and energy-efficient networks inside data centers, in particular for the edge tier, which requires a large number of interconnects and consumes the dominant part of the overall power. Optical fiber communication is widely recognized as the highest energy-and cost-efficient technique to offer ultra-large capacity for telecommunication networks. It has also been considered as a promising transmission technology for future data center applications. Taking into account the characteristics of the traffic generated by the servers, such as locality, multi-cast, dynamicity, and burstiness, the emphasis of the research on data center networks has to be put on architectures that leverage optical transport to the greatest possible extent. However, no feasible solution based on optical switching is available so far for handling the data center traffic at the edge tier. Therefore, apart from conventional optical switching, we investigate a completely different paradigm, passive optical interconnects, and aim to explore the possibility for optical interconnects at the top of the rack. In this article, we present three major types of passive optical interconnects and carry out a performance assessment with respect to the ability to host data center traffic, scalability, optical power budget, complexity of the required interface, cost, and energy consumption. Our results have verified that the investigated passive optical interconnects can achieve a significant reduction of power consumption and maintain cost at a similar level compared to its electronic counterpart. Furthermore, several research directions on passive optical interconnects have been pointed out for future green data centers.
2015. Vol. 53, no 8, 140-148 p.