SANTA CLARA, Calif. – National Semiconductor, Molex and Rambus will be among dozens of companies unveiling new high-speed signaling capabilities for next-generation systems at this week's DesignCon event here.
National will demonstrate prototype retimer chips handling signal conditioning over connectors and a three-meter cable assembly from Molex to drive signals at a 25 Gbit/second rate. The capability shows progress on the road to a generation of 100 Gbit/second Ethernet systems expected to ship in late 2012, an industry target motivating many DesignCon efforts.
For its part, Rambus will show a multimodal memory interface capable of delivering 20 Gbits/s at 6 milliWatts/Gbit/s over differential lines and 12.8 Gbits/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 2.4 Gbits/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 28 Gbits/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 define a new flavor 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 28 Gbits/s using as little as 5 milliWatts/Gbit/s.
Despite the impressive results, the industry still needs to turn the crank on components to meet the speed and distance requirements for 100 Gbit/s Ethernet systems that will be required for future data centers and core carrier networks. Future cables and chips will need to support the 25+ Gbit/s speeds over both printed-circuit board traces and external cable distances of up to eight meters.
"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.