Luxtera unveils 100Gbps single chip optical transceivers; new Molex backplane, high density connectivity products to follow

4x28Gbps silicon photonics transceiver chip will be demonstrated to networking and computing OEMs at this month's SC11 in Seattle.

Nov 21st, 2011

Silicon photonics specialist Luxtera will, in partnership with Molex (NASDAQ: MOLX), introduce a single chip 100Gbps optical transceiver to support next generation cloud computing data centers and high performance computing (HPC) optical connectivity. According to Luxtera, the single chip opto-electronic transceiver includes four fully integrated 28Gbps transmit and receive channels powered from a single laser for an aggregate unencoded data rate of up to 112Gbps. The device is intended for 100Gbps Ethernet, OTN and InfiniBand applications as well as emerging OIF (Optical Internetworking Forum) Short Reach (SR) and Very Short Reach (VSR) electrical interconnect to host systems.

With Molex’s acquisition of the Active Optical Cable (AOC) business from Luxtera earlier this year and the development partnership established between the two companies, Luxtera says that it began its evolution from a cabling solutions company to a fabless semiconductor provider, focusing on delivering CMOS photonics based optical engines for high volume embedded optics applications. The SC11 announcement extends the Luxtera family of embedded transceiver products to 100Gbps data rate systems.

The optical transceivers can be socketed directly onto the customers’ switch or server boards for both backplane and rack mount connectivity. The integration reduces cost, power, and design complexity for OEMs, contends the company. Luxtera and Molex say they continue to work in close strategic collaboration, providing a turn-key solution for embedded applications employing what they claim is the industry's first fully integrated 4x28Gbps optical engine that enables a wide array of product solutions, including100Gbps AOCs which can be applied to 100Gbps Ethernet and EDR InfiniBand applications, as well as embedded optical transceivers.

“The introduction of the 100Gbps Silicon Photonics transceiver, which is the outcome of a joint Luxtera-Molex collaboration, is a key milestone in optical connectivity for a wide range of cloud computing, data center and HPC applications. We are excited about this collaboration with Luxtera as it represents one of the many positive outcomes of our partnership and recent agreements,” said Doug Busch, Vice-President and General Manager of Molex’s Fiber Optic Products Business Unit. “As a strategic partner with Luxtera, Molex will deliver a line of connectivity products based on this IP spanning different data rates, lanes and mechanical form-factors.”

The companies contend that ever growing bandwidth requirements of cloud computing and the emergence of 100Gbps Ethernet as a primary data center interconnect technology drives an inflection point in the industry. As such, there is a growing need to find a viable solution for high density intra-system parallel 28Gbps connectivity. Copper interconnects are approaching significant constraints in terms of reach, power consumption, thermal management and connection routing, which when combined with the cost of high quality PCB materials, creates a price performance barrier for OEMs. The OIF is responding to this need by defining 28Gbps SR and VSR specifications for chip-to-transceiver connectivity. Luxtera says its silicon photonics technology is ideally positioned to take advantage of these industry trends to deliver a best-in-class connectivity solution.

The Luxtera silicon photonics technology utilizes the mainstream CMOS fabrication processes to deliver on-chip waveguide level modulation and photo-detection along with associated electronics, resulting in a fully-integrated single chip optical transceiver. Light from a single co-packaged laser is used to power multiple optical transmitters on a chip, eliminating the need for multiple lasers and reducing transceiver cost and power consumption. This powerful combination makes silicon photonics an obvious choice for system designers over VCSELs, contends the company, providing key benefits in reliability, power consumption and signal integrity, which are critical to system design.

“The benefits of Luxtera’s silicon photonics products have been proven in commercial applications, and are gaining favor in high volume embedded application markets where optical interconnect is beginning to displace copper. This creates an opportunity for exceptional growth over the next few years,” comments Greg Young, President and CEO of Luxtera. “By delivering the first 100Gbps transceiver Luxtera is reinforcing its silicon photonics leadership position and is the first to enable OEMs to deliver cost effective system-to-system 100Gbps Ethernet and intra-system 28Gbps VSR connectivity.”

“Silicon photonics has always had many promises, but very few companies have delivered on those promises – Luxtera is one that has. Their new chips and transceivers will enable 25Gbps single links and 100Gbs+ aggregate links in very small packages to allow large numbers of transceivers per one Rack Unit (1RU), thereby achieving the high front panel density that datacenter managers demand in the space limited server racks and switches,” added Brad Smith, Vice President and Industry Analyst at LightCounting.com, a firm that specializes in high-speed interconnect market research.

Smith continued, “As the bandwidth demands soar and longer reaches are needed in bigger data centers, managers are requiring more high-bandwidth optical interconnects throughout their systems on a volume scale unheard of in the optical transceiver markets. Going forward we expect to see optics widely replacing copper interconnects, especially at reaches past 7m. Data rates continue to increase and push well past 10Gbps. As a result, copper cabling solutions are finding it increasingly difficult to stay in the game and it is akin to hitting the sound barrier. Additionally, VCSEL-based, optical transceiver companies are having tremendous difficulty bringing to market 25Gbps per channel transceivers. Silicon photonics technology, such as from Luxtera, enables combining transistor electronics with photonics on the same chip and easily achieves >25G modulation rates at reasonable costs to the end user. Lastly, Luxtera’s products enable optical interconnects from mid-circuit board in big systems with a reach over 2 km.”

Luxtera and Molex will be privately showcasing the transceiver to lead customers at SC11 in Seattle, taking place November 12-18. The companies are sampling evaluation platforms to strategic partners and customers.

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