Keysight, Credo solve PAM4-to-NRZ signal conversion for 400/100GE data center testing

May 21, 2020
Joint platform enables 400GE tester to validate legacy 100GE devices and networks.

Keysight Technologies, Inc. (NYSE: KEYS) has introduced a test platform that enables data center operators to leverage 400 Gigabit Ethernet (GE) capable test ports to link with and test legacy 100GE network equipment.

The new test platform is comprised of Keysight’s Ixia AresONE 400GE High Performance Layer 1 through 3 test system, based on the Pulse Amplitude Modulation level-4 (PAM4) signaling protocol, interconnected to legacy 100GE non-return-to-zero (NRZ) networking equipment ports using Credo’s HiWire Active Electrical Cable (AEC) technology. The collaborative solution provides speed-shifting of the signaling rates and forward error correction (FEC) conversion.

As noted by Keysight, "Data center operators have widely deployed mature 100GE NRZ-based technologies. However, higher speeds, such as 400GE, create a new mixed signaling, mixed FEC, multi-rate environment. This new environment produces unique challenges relating to the integration of PAM-4-based 400GE and 100GE-capable switch ports with existing 100GE NRZ signaling-based switch port technology."

Keysight and Credo say the combined test platform bridges the signaling gap between incompatible PAM4- and NRZ-encoded signaling. The partners say the system removes potential compromises in testing configurations to improve overall performance validation and quality. The Credo AEC cable technology performs the necessary conversions to allow a PAM4-encoded port to interoperate with an NRZ-encoded port. The overall solution provides support for testing four ports of 100GE NRZ from a single port of 400GE QSFP-DD PAM4 in 4x100GE speed mode.

“Data center operators are faced with a complex environment and need to leverage their existing investments for the future,” notes Ram Periakaruppan, vice president, product development, at Keysight’s Network Applications and Security group. “The Ixia AresONE 400GE test system supports Credo’s interconnect technology in high density 100GE test beds, enabling data center operators to accelerate validation of 100GE NRZ devices and network infrastructure while leveraging 400GE-capable PAM-4 ports to support demand in the future.”

The platform's use of the Credo HiWire AEC allows flexibility in configuration of network rack equipment. Data center operators can install 400GE-capable ports and connect them when and where needed to legacy 100GE NRZ ports. Testing performed with the Ixia AresONE 400GE combined with the Credo HiWire SERDES speed shift and PAM4-to-NRZ conversion technology is completed at a fraction of the cost of the equivalent configuration using optical transceiver technology.

Keysight and Credo are members of the HiWire Consortium, a non-profit organization dedicated to accelerating the adoption of AECs in applications such as the one described.

“Keysight’s Ixia AresONE 400GE test solution with 4x100GE per port fan-out has the scale and performance to meet the verification needs of multi-terabit Distributed Disaggregated Chassis networks,” concludes Jeff Twombly, vice president of business development at Credo. “It is great to see them leverage our HiWire AEC interconnect solution to deliver this industry-leading and innovative data center solution.”

A demonstration of the combined platform is available at https://www.ixiacom.com/resources/aresone-cabling-400ge-4x100ge-nrz-testing.

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