SC07 sees 40G demos aimed at data centers

November 20, 2007 -- At this month's SuperComputing Conference (SC07) in Reno, NV, companies including Luxtera, Fulcrum Microsystems, and Mellanox Technologies jointly mounted several live connectivity demonstrations of 40-Gigabit Ethernet technology.

November 20, 2007 -- At this month's SuperComputing Conference (SC07) in Reno, NV, companies including Luxtera, Fulcrum Microsystems, and Mellanox Technologies jointly mounted several live connectivity demonstrations of 40-Gigabit Ethernet technology.

At the tradeshow, Fulcrum Microsystems and Luxtera announced the availability to OEMs of a low-latency, 40-Gigabit Ethernet switch/router reference design for datacenter backbone applications. The reference design is composed of a card developed by Luxtera using its nanophotonic "Blazar"-brand 40-Gigabit optical active cable, which fits into Fulcrum's "Reno"-brand low-latency, 10-Gigabit Ethernet router platform for data center applications.

Also introduced at the SC07 show, Luxtera's Blazar 40-Gigabit optical active cable (OAC) is based on the company's CMOS photonics technology, and combines the benefits of optical modules and copper cables to deliver high bandwidth interconnection, reaching up to 300 meters. The cable binds four 10-Gigabit Ethernet channels into one 40 Gbit/sec high-density QSFP connector. The company notes that, by utilizing a QSFP form factor, the cable allows customers to quadruple bandwidth density per shelf. The cable is suited for InfiniBand and Ethernet applications in High Performance Computing (HPC) clusters and data centers.

"As we begin sampling, we're excited to demonstrate Luxtera's 40 Gigabit optical active cable interoperating with products from market leaders," comments Marek Tlalka, vice president of marketing for Luxtera. "Our breakthrough CMOS photonics technology uses a single die for what has traditionally been implemented using multiple components. As a result, Blazar breaks paradigms of traditional optics by delivering a low cost, long reach and highly reliable solution that will change the landscape of data centers."

"Demonstration of Luxtera's CMOS-photonics based 40 Gbit/sec optical active cable is an important milestone for next generation InfiniBand deployments," adds Thad Omura, vice president of product marketing for Mellanox Technologies. "Systems with multi-core processors and PCIe Gen2 demand this I/O bandwidth for optimal clustered application performance and power efficiency. Higher bandwidths along with larger cluster sizes drive the demand for optical interconnect. Luxtera is well positioned to fill this need."

Data centers and HPC clusters are expected to gain 2x throughput and 3x reach using Blazar versus existing optical active cables. According to Luxtera, such applications will also gain 4x density improvement with one QSFP connector taking the same space as four XFP connectors. By utilizing the proprietary CMOS photonics technology, Luxtera estimates that the Blazar cable delivers such improvements at prices comparable to today's 20G interconnect technology.

"QSFP form factor enables higher density and higher connector reliability as well as provides smooth migration from SDR to DDR to QDR rates for the industry," offers Lloyd Dickman, QLogic's CTO for InfiniBand products. "We are excited that Luxtera has overcome many obstacles and provided the market with a QSFP optical active cable at a price point needed by the market."

At the SCO7 event, Luxtera's Blazar 40-Gigabit optical active cable was demonstrated an option for Fulcrum's "Reno" reference design, a 1RU switch/router system that uses Fulcrum's FocalPoint FM2224 low-latency switch, or Fulcrum's FM4224 low-latency router, to offer 24 full-rate 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports.

With the Luxtera mezzanine card, the Reno design is configured to feature three 40 Gbit/sec QSFP ports and 12 CX4 10-Gigabit Ethernet ports, all running at full line rate with less than 300 nanoseconds of latency for L3 routing. This configuration is suited for clustered storage or high-performance computing applications. Fulcrum contends that its low latency switching offers better latency performance and larger network sizes than competing InfiniBand platforms.

"The bandwidth and low latency offered by the Reno platform with Blazar means data center Ethernet can now be used to build networks supporting thousands of processors or disks with the inherent economic advantages that are expected from Ethernet," comments Mike Zeile, vice president of marketing for Fulcrum Microsystems. "Adding Luxtera's capabilities to our recently launched low-latency routing platform shows how quickly and completely data center Ethernet solutions are coming together."

"Demand for 40-Gigabit connectivity is growing in the data center, but before this platform, Ethernet customers were limited to 10 Gigabit bandwidth per port," adds Luxtera's Tlalka. "Our interconnect technology gives users a solution today to build an all-Ethernet data center that will seamlessly migrate to the 40-Gigabit Ethernet standard now being developed by the IEEE."

Finally, in a separate SC07 announcement, Fulcrum also released its FocalPoint FM4000 family of low-latency 10-Gigabit Ethernet routing chips. The FM4000 family include a 24-port, 10-GbE router featuring layer three functionality, with as little as 300 ns of end-to-end latency. Other members of the family feature 12, eight and two 10-Gigabit ports with varying numbers of Gigabit ports; all 10-Gigabit Ethernet ports are XAUI SerDes interfaces and can operate at 10/100/1000/2500 SGMII modes.

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