Spectra7 issues reference designs for 56Gbps PAM4 server connectivity

Nov. 4, 2020
Nvidia, Broadcom and Intel are all set to roll out new, higher-speed NICs that will drive demand for Spectra7-enabled data center interconnects, says the chipmaker.

Spectra7 Microsystems Inc., a maker of high-performance analog semiconductor chips for broadband technology, today announced three new reference designs to accommodate new server connectivity needs implementing 56Gbps PAM4 signaling on Ethernet Network Interface Cards (NICs).

Spectra7 notes that the leading suppliers of these cards -- Nvidia, Broadcom and Intel -- are all gearing up to release new products using this higher speed signaling. 

As further noted by the company, according to Omdia's recent Ethernet Network Adapter Equipment Market Tracker report

Data center Ethernet NIC market revenue is set to grow 28 percent in 2020 with growth accelerating through 2024, driven by server shipments and the adoption of higher speed offload and programmable NICs. This market is poised to hit $4.5 billion by 2024. With virtualization, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning driving up server workloads, the network connection is becoming a bandwidth bottleneck. These NICs are used in servers by hyperscalers such as Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Tencent, and Alibaba. 

Spectra7 contends that, as servers adopt higher bandwidth ports that utilize 56Gbps PAM4 signaling, passive cables cannot serve all lengths needed. Instead of deploying optical interconnects that are much higher power and more costly, operators are now looking to Active Copper Cables (ACCs) to serve this growing need.  

The chip maker adds: 

One example is Tencent who demonstrated a Spectra7 enabled ACC for server connectivity in September at China’s Open Data Center Committee (ODCC) conference. The 200Gbps demonstration showed a Spectra7 enabled ACC “splitter cable” connecting from a 200Gbps top-of-rack (ToR) switch port to 2 separate servers with 100Gbps NIC ports. The signaling in the cable was 56Gbps PAM4. This “splitter cable” architecture is being widely planned both in the US and in China for next generation deployments. 

In response to such demand, Spectra7 is announcing immediate availability of three reference designs to support this critical need. All designs utilize Spectra7’s Dual Channel 56Gbps PAM4 technology. The new reference designs are as follows: 

  • GCS-QSFP Reference Design: Defines a Server Connectivity Splitter Cable with 200Gbps QSFP56-CR4 form factor module at switch end and 2 QSFP56-CR2 form factor modules at server ends. A total of 4 GC2502 ICs are used in this reference design.
  • GCS-DSFP Reference Design: Defines a Server Connectivity Splitter Cable with 200Gbps QSFP56-CR4 form factor module at switch end and 2 DSFP-CR2 form factor modules at server ends. A total of 4 GC2502 ICs are used in this reference design.
  • GCS-SFP-DD Reference Design: Defines Server Connectivity Splitter Cable with 200Gbps QSFP56-CR4 form factor module at switch end and 2 SFP-DD-CR2 form factor modules at server ends. A total of 4 GC2502 ICs are used in this reference design.

“We are thrilled that hyperscalers are expanding their use of Spectra7 technology for use in 56Gbps server connectivity,” said Spectra7 CEO Raouf Halim. “This represents a significant increase in the market opportunity for our GC2502 data center solution. These new reference designs will enable our cable partners to quickly respond to these this new server connectivity requirements.” 

Spectra7's GaugeChanger is billed as "an innovative and disruptive technology that allows copper to extend much longer lengths without the cost and power penalty of optics." The company notes the technology works equally well at 25Gbps NRZ and 50Gbps PAM4, enabling new connector standards of 100, 200 and 400Gbps. For more information, visit www.spectra7.com.

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