Optical connections within and between data centers will be increasingly important in allowing data centers to scale in capacity. The committee believes that strong partnering between users, content providers, and network providers, as well as between businesses, government, and university researchers, is needed for ensuring that the necessary optical technology is generated, which will support continued U.S. leadership in the data center business.

Recommendation: The U.S. government and private industry, in conjunction with academia, should strive to develop technology to have optics take over the role of communicating and interconnecting information, not just at long distances, but at shorter distances as well, such as inside information processing systems, even to the silicon chip itself, thereby allowing substantial reductions in energy consumption in information processing and allowing the performance of information processing machines and systems to continue to scale to keep up with the exploding growth of the use of information in society.

Recommendation: The U.S. government and private industry, in conjunction with academia, need to encourage the exploitation of emerging nanotechnology for the next generation of optics and optoelectronics for the dramatic enhancement of performance (size, energy consumption, speed, integration with electronics) in information communications, storage, and processing.

Recommendation: The optics and photonics community needs to position the United States in broadband to the home and business space. The U.S. government should pursue policies that will enable at least gigabits per second broadband access to the substantial majority of society at a reasonable cost by 2020.

Recommendation: A multi-agency and cross-discipline effort is recommended to identify the opportunities and optical technologies to significantly increase the energy efficiency in communications networks, information processing, and storage. In addition, new ideas for the use of energy-efficient optical approaches to displace current energy-hungry practices—for example, travel—should be identified and supported. Greater focus and support in this area, especially at the fundamental level where companies are less likely to invest and where payoff could be huge, will be important.

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