Optics for the Cloud

Optics for the Cloud

Publications

Overview

We seek to spur cross-disciplinary research between the optics community and computer scientists at this exciting intersection between physics and computer science. What new computation models make sense? How could end-to-end systems be built spanning storage, compute, and networking—in the optical domain?

At Microsoft Research Cambridge, we are creating disruptive technologies for the cloud by using optics. Most technology used in data centers today was designed before the cloud existed and is hindered by its legacy design. We are inventing future, non-legacy-based technologies to empower the next generation of the cloud; by creating new types of storage, network and compute resources that exploit optics.

We are assembling a world-leading highly inter-disciplinary team to ask the simple question – how can optics for the cloud change the cloud? We are also collaborating in this effort as part of the Optics for the Cloud Research Alliance, a joint effort between leading research groups in the field that includes Microsoft, University College London, University of Cambridge, and others.

Learn more about Systems and Networking at Microsoft Research Cambridge.

Optics for the Cloud PhD position at Microsoft Research Cambridge

PhD Opportunity – Fast Interconnection with Fibre Lasers

The successful candidate will be based at Aston institute of Photonic Technologies and will be expected to spend 3 months of the studentship at Microsoft Research Cambridge, enjoying the benefits of world leading grating fabrication and system test facilities at Aston, and the opportunity to develop and test data center switching architectures at Microsoft.

Optics for the Cloud PhD position at Microsoft Research Cambridge

PhD Opportunity – “Zero”: Latency Optically Disaggregated Memory

The successful candidate will be based at Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering at UCL enjoying the benefits of world leading Optical Networks Group expertise and experimental facilities while expected to frequently visit Microsoft Research Cambridge, to develop realistic Data Centre environment and test conditions.

Optics for the Cloud Microsoft Research Cambridge Internship

Internship Opportunity

Microsoft Research is looking for highly motivated PhD students with experience in optics to join us in an exciting project involving Holography and Head Mounted Displays. The project involves solving a range of practical challenges of modern HMD displays with its core being a holographic projection system. Search “holograms: the future of near-eye display” for more information.

People

Group Members

Interns, Visitors, and Collaborators

  • Portrait of Dan Blumenthal

    Dan Blumenthal

    Visiting Researcher, Summer 2017

    UCSB

  • Portrait of Kari Clark

    Kari Clark

    Intern, Spring 2016

    UCL

  • Portrait of Chris Dainty

    Chris Dainty

    Consultant

  • Portrait of Adam Funnell

    Adam Funnell

    Intern, Summer 2016

    UCL

  • Portrait of Thomas Gerard

    Thomas Gerard

    Intern, Fall 2016

    UCL

  • Portrait of Hussein Kassir

    Hussein Kassir

    Intern, Summer '15

    École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

  • Portrait of Qi Li

    Qi Li

    Intern, Summer 2015

    Columbia University

  • Portrait of Alana  Marzoev

    Alana Marzoev

    Intern

  • Portrait of Jayashree  Mohan

    Jayashree Mohan

    Intern

  • Portrait of Theofilos Petsios

    Theofilos Petsios

    Intern, Fall 2017

    Columbia University

  • Portrait of Nadesh  Ramanathan

    Nadesh Ramanathan

    Intern

  • Portrait of Philip Watts

    Philip Watts

    Visiting Researcher, Fall 2016

    UCL

  • Portrait of Aaron Zhao

    Aaron Zhao

    Intern, Summer 2017

    University of Cambridge

Microsoft Azure

  • Portrait of Jeff Cox

    Jeff Cox

    Partner Dir Software Eng

    Microsoft

  • Portrait of Jamie Gaudette

    Jamie Gaudette

    Principal Network Eng Manager

    Microsoft

  • Portrait of Dave Maltz

    Dave Maltz

    Partner Group Software Engineering Manager

  • Portrait of Aaron Ogus

    Aaron Ogus

    Partner Group Software Eng Mgr

    Microsoft

Storage

The rapid expansion of cloud computing, and its corresponding data volumes, is driving demand for new approaches to storage for all tiers, from Hot (high frequency access at low latency) to Standard and Cool (normal frequency access with tens of milliseconds latency), to Cold (archival, infrequent access, and latency up to hours). Historically this demand was met by advances in the achieved information storage density of the magnetic material. However, storage density is now very close to the fundamental physical limits imposed by the size of the magnetic domains that can be manipulated and successfully read.

Our research is investigating new optics-based approaches to storage that provide properties that are better than or equal to today’s technology, and that provide greatly extended data lifetimes and reduce the cost per byte.

Project Silica

Project Silica

Project Silica, a collaboration with the University of Southampton is a ground-breaking cloud storage system that uses femto lasers to write data on to quartz glass which, due to its durable properties, provides long-lasting, easily-readable storage. It was featured in Mark Russinovich’s Ignite talk below.


In September 2017, Mark Russinovich, CTO of Azure, announced a number of new collaborations with MSR Cambridge including Project Silica. See Mark present the impressive early results (watch from 1:01:13 – 1:03:18).

Networking

A reliable, high-performing, self-managed, and low-cost network is a critical part of the cloud infrastructure. Our research aims to re-invent the network that will underpin the cloud in year 2025 and will meet these key properties, via emerging optical technologies. Capacity and speed requirements are expected to increase at the same time as existing networks become hard to scale efficiently. This, in turn, motivates our search for new optical network technologies with new growth curves that can match the requirements of future workloads. These technologies include new transceivers, new switching systems, new kinds of optical fibers, and other emerging approaches.

Project Iris

Project Iris

Project Iris explores novel designs of regional and Wide Area (WAN) cloud networks from the ground-up.

Project Sirius

Project Sirius

Project Sirius aims to develop an all-optical, data-center-wide network that is completely flat, in contrast to the hierarchy of electrical switches used today.

Research Alliance

Optics for the Cloud Research Alliance

At our research labs, we are engaged with a number of academic partners to create innovative optical technologies covering new storage and networking technologies for the cloud. Our collaborators include several top universities with diverse and cutting-edge optical research programs: Southampton University, UCL, Cambridge University, Eindhoven University of Technology (Tu/e), Aston University, and University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). Currently we are collaborating with Southampton University on optical storage, with UCL, Cambridge University and Aston University on optical networking, and with UCSB and TU/e on device-level optics. As a commitment of our long-term interest in this space, we have set up a multi-year research alliance on optics for the cloud with Cambridge University and UCL.

Optics for the Cloud PhD position at Microsoft Research Cambridge

PhD Opportunity – Fast Interconnection with Fibre Lasers

The successful candidate will be based at Aston institute of Photonic Technologies and will be expected to spend 3 months of the studentship at Microsoft Research Cambridge, enjoying the benefits of world leading grating fabrication and system test facilities at Aston, and the opportunity to develop and test data center switching architectures at Microsoft.

Optics for the Cloud PhD position at Microsoft Research Cambridge

PhD Opportunity – “Zero”: Latency Optically Disaggregated Memory

The successful candidate will be based at Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering at UCL enjoying the benefits of world leading Optical Networks Group expertise and experimental facilities while expected to frequently visit Microsoft Research Cambridge, to develop realistic Data Centre environment and test conditions.

Optics for the Cloud Microsoft Research Cambridge Internship

Internship Opportunity

Microsoft Research is looking for highly motivated PhD students with experience in optics to join us in an exciting project involving Holography and Head Mounted Displays. The project involves solving a range of practical challenges of modern HMD displays with its core being a holographic projection system. Search “holograms: the future of near-eye display” for more information.

Talks and Events

Talks

Hitesh Ballani on “Optics for the Cloud: Opportunities and Challenges” at OSA Advanced Photonics Congress (July 2018), Microsoft Faculty Summit (August 2018), and ECOC (September 2018).

Ant Rowstron on “Rethinking Data Storage for the Zettabyte Cloud Era: The Journey from Metal to Glass” at OSA Advanced Photonics Congress, July 2018.

Ioan Setfanovici on “Glass: A New Media for a New Era?” at ACM HotStorage, July 2018.

Ariel Gomez Diaz on “Optics for the Cloud” at Downing College, May 2018.

Paolo Costa on “Bridging the Last Mile for Optical Switching in Data Centers” at Photonics West (January 2018) and OFC (March 2018) .

Benn Thomsen on “Optics for the cloud: Opportunities for Light” at UCL Optics Summit, June 2017.

Events

Benn Thomsen is organizing a workshop at ECOC 2018 (Title and Abstract TBC)

Paolo Costa is organizing a workshop at OFC 2019 (Title and Abstract TBC)