The Optical Networking and Communication
Conference & Exhibition

San Diego Convention Center,
San Diego, California, USA

Panel III: Optical Interconnect and Computing for Scaling Machine Learning Systems

Tuesday, 10 March
14:30 - 16:00
Expo Theater I

Moderator: Ryohei Urata, Technical Lead/Manager, Google, USA

Panel Description:

Until recently, the architectures and systems for executing Machine Learning (ML) workloads were based on traditional optical interconnects used for datacenter networking or high-performance computing. With the rapid rise in ML workloads and the fact that ML network architectures/protocols and computation requirements are different from traditional datacenter architectures and compute, leading cloud operators, component/system vendors, and a number of startups are exploring optical technologies for more efficient and scalable ML systems. These fall into two categories: (a) Making higher performance (bandwidth, latency) optical interconnects while improving power, cost, and density and (b) Exploring optics for computation, by leveraging the unique characteristics of ML systems for both axes.  

This panel will introduce the views of several industry leaders in this area, followed by discussion among panelists and the floor. 


Paolo Costa, Principal Researcher, Microsoft, UK
Nicholas Harris, CEO, Lightmatter, Inc., USA
Benny Koren, VP Architecture, Mellanox Technologies, Israe
Robert (Ted) Weverka, Senior Optical Physicist and IP lead, Fathom Computing, USA


Paolo Costa, Principal Researcher, Microsoft, UK

Paolo is a Principal Researcher in the Cloud Infrastructure Group of the Microsoft Research Lab in Cambridge and an Honorary Lecturer with the Department of Computing of Imperial College London. My research interests lie at the intersection of distributed systems and networking with particular emphasis on data-centers interconnects. My current research investigates how to improve data-center networks through a deep rethinking of the way these networks are built and operated, leveraging the availability of emerging hardware and optical technologies.

Nicholas Harris, CEO, Lightmatter, Inc., USA

Nick is the President and CEO of Lightmatter. Before founding Lightmatter, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he received his PhD in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. His doctoral thesis is titled “Programmable nanophotonics for quantum information processing and artificial intelligence”. Nick has authored 59 academic articles and 7 patents. He was awarded an Intelligence Community Postdoctoral Fellowship for his work on post-Moore’s Law computing technologies and his graduate studies were supported by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. He was previously an R&D engineer working on DRAM and NAND circuits and device physics at Micron Technologies.

Benny Koren, VP Architecture, Mellanox Technologies, Israel

Benny Koren , Mellanox VP for architecture, re-joined Mellanox in 2010 and is responsible for Mellanox's switches and Physical layer products. Mr. Koren graduated Cum Laude with a B.Sc. in Electrical Engineering from the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology.


Ryohei Urata, Technical Lead/Manager, Google, USA

Dr. Ryohei Urata is currently a technical lead/manager in the Platforms Optics Group, responsible for Google's datacenter optical technologies and corresponding roadmap. Prior to joining Google, he was a research specialist at NTT Laboratories. He has over 135 patents/publications in the areas of optical interconnect, switching, and networking. He received his Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Stanford University.


Robert (Ted) Weverka, Senior Optical Physicist and IP lead, Fathom Computing, USA

Ted Weverka started work in systems and devices for optical computing in the early 80’s, developing adaptive neural networks and radar signal processing systems. These analog systems grew to utilize volume holographic adaptive weights for large-scale high-speed systems. Ted founded Network Photonics, developing WDM digital communication systems for metro area optical networks.  He is currently developing a pioneering optoelectronic computer for artificial neural networks at Fathom Computing. Ted is a member of the graduate faculty at the University of Colorado, Boulder and on the editorial board of Fiber and Integrated Optics.

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