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High-Speed Communications — On the Road Again

By Mike Gianfagna on 03/22/2019
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Lately, we’ve had quite a lot of trade show participation. I discussed ISSCC last month. I will be careful right now to state that ISSCC is a technical conference and not a trade show. The organizers are quite particular about that. Nonetheless, we were invited to demonstrate our high-speed SerDes there, and we got a lot of great questions from a lot of very smart people.

Since ISSCC, we’ve participated in two more trade shows/technical conferences. At OFC, we demonstrated our 7nm 56G SerDes running multiple protocols through multiple channels over an eye-popping five-meter cable provided by Samtec. We also demonstrated interoperability between our 56G SerDes and the SerDes in an Intel® Stratix® 10 FPGA running Precise-ITC’s 400GE PCS and MAC with KP4 FEC. And finally, we demonstrated a complete HBM2 PHY subsystem with eSilicon’s latest 7nm HBM2 PHY, Northwest Logic’s memory controller and an HBM DRAM stack from a leading memory supplier. A few days later, we demonstrated our long-reach SerDes and five-meter cable at OCP in the Samtec booth. Yes, we’ve been busy.

I’ll get back to the demos in a moment, but first I want to spend a few minutes talking about the remarkable shows we attended.

OFC was held March 5 – 7 at the San Diego Convention Center. OFC, or the Optical Fiber Conference and Exhibition, is a globally focused event that looks at all aspects of high-speed communications and the associated infrastructure to support those channels. Time for some jargon: 10 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE), 25GbE, 50GbE, 100GbE, 400GbE; Open Source Open ROADM SDN Controller; pluggable CFP2-ACO and CFP2-DCO modules; and Common Electrical I/O (CEI)-112G, FlexE (Flex Ethernet) and 400ZR were all represented at the show. The event is over 40 years old and attracts over 15,000 attendees from around the world and close to 700 exhibitors. It takes up the entire San Diego Convention Center.

Some of you will be familiar with the Design Automation Conference (DAC). That event is over 50 years old, but is quite a bit smaller in size. I recall doing DAC in one of the halls at the San Diego Convention Center quite a few times over the years. The full facility is used for OFC — seven halls. High-speed communications is hot.

An interesting side comment is our presence at this show caused some head-turning on the part of those who visited our booth. OFC is the biggest optical networking show in the world and we went there with a very long, multi-channel copper cable. Many times, during our demo, when we explained that long cable was full of copper conductors and not optical fibers, there was a very long pause. “What did you say?” “You’re getting this performance and that power with a copper cable that long?” “How can that be?” It was an exciting (and fun) time.

OFC 2019 esilicon Five Meter Cable DSP SerDes Demo
OFC 2019: full DSP SerDes over five-meter cable demo

 

OFC 2019 esilicon SerDes FPGA interoperability demo
OFC 2019 SerDes interoperability demo

 

OFC 2019 esilicon HBM2 PHY demo
OFC 2019 HBM2 subsystem demo

And then, a week later, we re-played our super-long cable demo in the Samtec booth at the OCP Global Summit. Samtec is a key partner for us — our long-reach demo is based on Samtec ExaMAXÒ Backplane Connector paddle cards and a five-meter ExaMAX Backplane Cable Assembly. OCP stands for Open Compute Project. According to their website, the annual summit brings together more than 3,400 key decision makers, executives, engineers, developers and suppliers. Together, they help grow, drive and support the open hardware ecosystem in, near and around the datacenter and beyond. This show is a bit smaller than OFC, but just as intense. The exhibit floor was full of advanced computer hardware and communication technology. Large date centers are also hot.

OCP 2019 esilicon Five Meter Cable DSP SerDes Demo
OCP 2019 SerDes over five-meter cable demo

If you’re interested, there are links in the middle of our home page to videos of the SerDes and HBM2 demos from OFC. They’re short, about two minutes. If you’re in the Bay Area, please register for the Linley Processor Conference on April 10 and 11. We’ll be demonstrating our long-reach SerDes during the reception on April 10 and presenting our networking and AI IP platforms on April 11.