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.
The successful candidate will be part of the Photonic Integration group (phi.ele.tue.nl) of the Electrical Engineering department of Eindhoven University of Technology. This is a collaborative project with Microsoft research Cambridge (UK).
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.
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, 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).
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 explores novel designs of regional and Wide Area (WAN) cloud networks from the ground-up.
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.
Talks and Events
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).