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National, Rambus demo 20G+ capability

Posted: 02 Feb 2011     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:prototype retimer chips  multi-modal memory interface  100Gbit/s Ethernet systems 

National Semiconductor, Molex and Rambus are set to demonstrate new high-speed signalling capabilities for next-generation systems at this week's DesignCon event in Santa Clara, California.

National will demonstrate prototype retimer chips handling signal conditioning over connectors and a 3m cable assembly from Molex to drive signals at a 25Gbit/s rate. The capability shows progress on the road to a generation of 100Gbit/s Ethernet systems expected to ship in late 2012, an industry target motivating many DesignCon efforts.

For its part, Rambus will show a multi-modal memory interface capable of delivering 20Gbit/s at 6mW/Gbit/s over differential lines and 12.8Gbit/s over a single wire. Rambus will demo how the interface is flexible and cost-effective enough for use in a broad range of systems from cost-sensitive DDR3 DRAM links at 2.4Gbit/s up to next-generation memory interconnects yet to be defined by standards groups.

Both demos will mark progress grappling with today's speed, power and noise challenges in signal integrity that will impact all aspects of future designs. The National and Molex work comes on the heels of demos from Altera, Avago and Xilinx of CMOS serdes chips driving signals at rates up to 28Gbit/s.

"As the speeds and densities increase, we need to get more involved with systems analysis with our OEM customers to get products with better EMI controls and thermal capabilities built in," said Joe Dambach, a product development manager at Molex.

National's retimer chips required the company to define a new flavour of its BiCMOS silicon germanium process tuned to the needs of fast wired interconnects. It can deliver signal conditioning chips capable of handling up to 28Gbit/s using as little as 5mW/Gbit/s.

Despite the impressive results, the industry still needs to turn the crank on components to meet the speed and distance requirements for 100Gbit/s Ethernet systems that will be required for future data centres and core carrier networks. Future cables and chips will need to support the 25+Gbit/s speeds over both PCB traces and external cable distances of up to 8m.

"The ecosystem today is still not ready for 25G—we need better connectors, cables and chips," said Jitendra Mohan, an engineering director for National's high-speed product division.

The 100G Ethernet standards have less wiggle room than today's 10G specs, creating implementation issues throughout the system. "Virtually every aspect of the system is a challenge—it drives almost a whole new ecosystem," said Dambach.

Rambus edges towards a terabit
The component makers are racing to support switch and router makers who are themselves under pressure from carriers and Web companies.

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