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What’s the Role of 200G Optical Connectivity on the Pathway to 400G?   Dec. 05, 2018

200g future blog.jpg (Datacenter)The ever-burgeoning bandwidth demands on Cloud Data Center infrastructure are intensifying the pressure on optical module providers to enable faster connectivity solutions at volume scales and cost structures. This is fueling tremendous uptake for 100G CWDM4 (4 x 25G) modules and accelerating the ramp to 100G single lambda (PAM-4) modules on the pathway to mainstream adoption of 400G (4 x 100G).

Technology vendors from across the optical networking industry are working hard to drive this progress, leveraging interoperability plugfests among other opportunities to ensure seamless compatibility among a growing ecosystem of components, modules, and switch systems. This activity reflects the urgent need for faster Data Center links, and also underscores the extreme effort and design precision required to achieve coherence among the heterogeneous products coming to market.

With 100G in widescale deployment today and the promise of mainstream 400G deployment seemingly ubiquitous, Cloud Data Centers are eager to take advantage of any and every opportunity to bridge the throughput gap and keep pace with the data deluge. 200G (4 x 50G) optical modules answer this immediate need head on.

ANALOG ADVANTAGES

200G modules provide several key benefits, chief among them the flexibility to leverage a fully analog architecture, the merits of which we assessed in an earlier blog post focused on optical modules for high performance computing (HPC) applications. Though somewhat more difficult to implement than mainstream digital signal processor (DSP) based solutions, fully analog optical interconnects can provide 1,000X lower latency than DSP-based solutions – a crucial attribute for enabling system and network performance at the fastest possible speeds. And while DSPs will remain essential for designing 100G single lambda and 400G modules, DSPs aren’t necessary for 200G module enablement today.

In the absence of DSPs, fully analog 200G optical modules consume much less power and dissipate considerably less heat. Leveraging existing optical components, it’s now possible to enable module-level total power consumption under 22 milliwatts per gigabit. This translates to a 200G optical module for 2km applications with power consumption as low as under 4 watts. A DSP-based module would likely clock in at 2 to 3 watts higher, which doesn’t sound like very much, until you aggregate the resulting power consumption penalty across a Data Center hosting thousands of optical modules. In this context, a 2 to 3 watt power savings per module is hugely advantageous for optimizing OPEX and cooling efficiency.

Low latency and power consumption are important attributes, but not the only performance metrics that matter. Signal integrity is another critical performance criterion given the cascading consequences of transmitting bit errors into the data stream. This poses a particularly daunting challenge as data throughput speeds increase from 100G to 200G and beyond.

The ability to maintain optimal signal integrity performance at 200G in the absence of a DSP is due, in large part, to continued advancements in clock data recovery (CDR) devices and the underlying signal conditioning technology. The newest generation of analog CDRs deployed in fully analog 200G modules have demonstrated the ability to enable a low bit error rate (BER) and better than 1E-8 pre-forward error correction (Pre-FEC), on par with DSP-based 200G modules.

HIGH VALUE, HIGH VOLUME

None of the aforementioned advantages of a fully analog 200G optical module would be worthwhile if the cost structures weren’t approaching comparable alignment with mainstream commercial solutions. But here again, the fully analog 200G module architecture wins against DSP-based 200G modules.

At the device level, the streamlined design of a fully analog 200G module reduces overall component count and sidesteps the costs of DSP development and implementation. At the broader market level, while 100G technology is already mature and component integration is well established, 200G end-to-end interoperable chipsets have just recently hit the market. Looking to the past as our guide, in the short term, 200G modules are expected to emulate cost structures akin to 100G modules when they entered the market a few years ago, and follow a similar downward cost curve as component integration is further standardized and volume shipments accelerate. In due course, 200G modules are expected to achieve a cost structure that’s comparable to today’s 100G modules.

As an intermediate step between 100G and 400G, 200G optical connectivity is a compelling solution for Cloud Data Centers challenged to implement faster optical links at scalable volumes and costs. DSPs will undoubtedly play a pivotal role on the path to 400G, and in the interim, the fully analog 200G module architecture lights the path to faster, cost effective connectivity beyond 100G.

MACOM is committed to leading the evolution of Cloud Data Center interconnects from 100G to 200G and 400G, and at ECOC 2018 we demonstrated a complete, fully analog 200G chipset and TOSA/ROSA subassembly solution that affords optical module providers seamless component interoperability to reduce design complexity and costs. To learn more about MACOM’s optical connectivity solutions for Cloud Data Center infrastructure, visit https://www.macom.com/data-center


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The Health and Economical Benefits of Solid-State Cooking   Oct. 23, 2018

Featured Image (Courtesy of the RFE Alliance):

RFE Diagram.PNGThe ability to generate and amplify RF signals is nothing new – but solid-state RF energy has enormous potential beyond data transmission applications. As companies like MACOM and collaborative organizations such as the RF Energy Alliance (RFEA) continue to pioneer and develop this technology, enabling greater efficiency and control than previously possible with conventional technologies, the full potential of this technology for mass-market applications is beginning to take form.

Microwave cooking is one application that is already being radically transformed with solid-state RF energy, enabling healthier eating and broad economical benefits. Solid-state RF energy transistors generate hyper-accurate, controlled energy fields that are extremely responsive to the controller, resulting in optimal and precise use and distribution of RF energy. This offers benefits unavailable via alternate solutions, including lower-voltage drive, high efficiency, semiconductor-type reliability, a smaller form factor and a solid-state electronics footprint. Perhaps the most compelling benefit is the power-agility and hyper-precision enabled by this technology, yielding even energy distribution, unprecedented process control range and fast adaption to changing load conditions, not to mention a lifespan of more than 10 years.

Enabling Healthier Eating

Precise temperature control is essential for maintaining proper nutrients of food during the heating/cooking process. Microwave ovens leveraging solid-state power amplifiers enable precision and control of directed energy, which helps preserve the nutritional integrity of food, and prevent cold spots that negatively impact the dining experience.

Since today’s magnetron-based microwave ovens aren’t equipped to adapt to energy being absorbed by or reflected from the food as it cooks, they rely on open-loop, average heating assisted by the rotating turntable at the base of the cavity. This imprecise delivery of energy often results in over-cooking and hot spots that can lower the food’s nutritional value.

By using multiple solid-state power amplifiers and antennas with closed-loop feedback to adjust for precise energy absorption, the energy can be directed with greater precision to exactly where it’s needed and in a controlled way that ensures optimal temperature control. Rather than relying on moisture sensors that measure humidity in the cooking cavity – an indirect mode of measurement that’s sometimes implemented in modern magnetron-based microwave ovens – solid-state microwave ovens measure the properties of the food itself while it cooks, and adapt accordingly. This promotes the retention of the nutrients, moisture and flavors of the food.

Economical Impact

The adoption of solid-state microwave heating is expected to commence in the industrial and commercial cooking market, where the value that these systems provide will be well worth the modest increase in cost. Customers stand to gain significant advantages centric to system reliability, food processing speed and throughput.

With regard to system reliability, solid-state RF transistors can provide 10X longer lifespans of typical magnetrons – this is a major benefit in 24/7 production environments where frequent magnetron failures can slow production and require numerous, expensive service calls. By eliminating the rotating platters common to magnetron-based microwave ovens, system reliability is further increased due to the reduction of mechanical moving parts, which are a common point of failure.

Food processing speed and throughput are increased due to solid-state microwave ovens’ ability to heat and cook food much faster than magnetron-based systems, owing to the rapid energy transfer enabled by solid state RF power adapting to the changing food dielectric. Solid-state RF technology is particularly valuable for food defrosting processes, enabling food to be defrosted much faster and more evenly than it can today, without drying or damaging the food.

With continued innovation in solid-state GaN-based RF technology and cost structure improvements, this technology is expected to eventually migrate to consumer kitchens, and in so doing has the potential to change perceptions of the modern microwave oven. Its value will evolve from that of a simple heating device, to a device that’s capable of cost-effectively cooking healthier, multi-course meals with unprecedented efficiency.

Proven Technology

This revolutionary cooking technology is already being successfully demonstrated. At IMS 2016, MACOM demonstrated this with our 300 W RF transistor in a solid-state oven baking muffins. The following year, at IMS 2017, MACOM announced their RF Energy Toolkit aimed at accelerating customers’ time to market by making it easier to fine tune RF energy output levels to maximize efficiency and performance.

Earlier this year, at IMS 2018, MACOM demonstrated the controllability of GaN-on-Si-based solid-state RF energy by successfully cooking the traditional Japanese Onsen Tamago. This dish is traditionally slow cooked using rope nets in the water of onsen hot springs in Japan at 70 °C for 30-40 minutes, enabling the egg yolk and egg white to solidify at different temperatures. The result is a dish of unique texture, with both a creamy outer layer and firm inner yolk. With the controllability enabled by solid-state RF energy, MACOM cooked this traditional dish in only 6-8 minutes, achieving the same desired consistency accomplished in the onsen hot springs.

Looking Forward

As with any emerging technology, the speed of RF energy technology’s commercial adoption hinges in part on collaborative industry efforts to establish common standards. Organizations like the RF Energy Alliance, composed of industry leaders spanning semiconductor vendors, commercial appliance OEMs and more, aim to help standardize RF energy system components, modules and application interfaces. In turn, this standardization will help to  reduce system costs, minimize design complexity, ease application integration and facilitate rapid market adoption (learn more about MACOM’s RF Energy Toolkit).

Thanks to continued advances such as these, the RF industry is closer than ever to enabling a more advanced, smarter kitchen for commercial restaurants and consumers around the world.


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Optical and Photonic Networks for 5G: Innovating at the Component Level   Sep. 04, 2018

MACOM in conversation with Verizon

vivek verizon.PNGAs technology continues to advance and new innovative solutions seem to appear daily, all eyes are looking to what’s next. For MACOM and Verizon, the next big step is the enablement and deployment of 5G communications networks. Verizon, being a telecommunications carrier, is eager to provide faster, more reliable connections to their customers, and MACOM is in a unique position to leverage its technology portfolio to develop the components that will make these new 5G networks possible.

Recently MACOM’s Vivek Rajgarhia, SVP and GM of the Lightwave Business Unit, had the opportunity to sit down to discuss recent product and technology innovation with Glenn Wellbrock, Director, Backbone Network Design, of Verizon. It was an interesting conversation throughout, spanning the growth and evolution of MACOM, to the direction in which the telecommunications industry is moving, and most importantly how these things intersect.

Rajgarhia began the conversation by explaining the history of MACOM, from the company’s founding nearly 70 years ago in the RF microwave industry, to present day where optics and photonics have become a significant focus for MACOM, highlighting how the portfolio of technologies has expanded to include Silicon Photonics (SiPh), Silicon Germanium (SiGe) and many more. More than ever before, MACOM is positioned as a preeminent supplier from RF to Light.

With 5G trending worldwide, companies and consumers alike are interested in the optimal development of 5G networks and the ability to deploy at a larger, more reliable scale to meet the ever-increasing demand for data. Growth in the telecommunications sector and the evolution of the components that will enable 5G is a main discussion point in the video, with both Wellbrock and Rajgarhia discussing how current technologies are growing toward a larger, more connected network.  The challenges being worked through while developing these technologies will optimize them for use in large-scale network architectures that will allow faster, more reliable connections between users. Wellbrock spoke about the evolution of laser technologies and how the jump from 10G lasers to 100G speeds occurred out of necessity to meet capacity requirements, while the jump from 100G to 400G will be an optimization move. Much of the foundation for the 5G network is already in place, but the challenge lies in optimizing this backbone in order for it to be built upon.

With the concepts of Smart Cities—cities that are interconnected with data collection sensors to supply information that can be used to better manage assets and resources, and the Internet of Things—connecting everyday objects with computing devices that enable them to send and receive data, comes the challenge of producing enough volume to satisfy demand, as well as the task of creating robust parts that will be able to handle the challenges that come along with connecting an entire city on one network. MACOM is committed to developing products that can be used in conjunction with each other to enable cohesive systems. For example, Silicon Photonics is positioned to be the most scalable solution for optical interconnects, delivering the lowest cost per bit for 100G and 400G, a key solution to the challenge that comes with deploying in remote areas of networks where replacing malfunctioning parts can be difficult and costly.

As technology continues to evolve, to satiate demanding higher speeds, an innovative, cost-effective and cohesive offering of components must be developed to enable next-generation connections. Wellbrock and Rajgarhia explore some of these exciting developments, and with some of the brightest minds in the industry working together, the full potential of 5G will soon be realized.

MACOM in conversation with Verizon


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Today’s RF Semiconductor Landscape is Changing – Why?   Aug. 14, 2018

rf landscape blog small.jpg (688429268)Today’s semiconductor industry is undergoing rampant changes, primarily led by shifting end-market requirements and major consolidations. The industry of decades ago, comprised of individual RF companies playing in chiefly the same markets, has been replaced by a new landscape—one decorated with new markets and major mergers and acquisitions of Silicon Valley companies with legacy chipmakers. So what exactly is driving this changing landscape?

What’s Driving the Change?

The changing landscape of the semiconductor industry is fundamentally driven by two requirements: the desire for ubiquitous sensing and demand for connectivity. People want efficient communication and safety, and they want it on a global scale – with each other, in their homes, at work, around the world. The market is no longer simply saturated with demand for cellular handsets; handheld devices have evolved from the days of simple pagers to essentially portable computers in the form of smartphones and smart devices. People now expect unlimited data, instant streaming, flawless connectivity and monitoring from their phones to their cars to their homes, drones delivering groceries, control of their household appliances and more. As these demands open the door to new large volume markets, companies are sprinting to be among the first to service them and obtain market share.

Evolving technology is another key factor driving change. To benefit these new high-volume, consumer applications, companies are shifting from traditional Gallium Arsenide (GaAs) solutions to silicon-based solutions offering more integration, superior technical performance, scalability and affordability supporting high volume production. RF components servicing smaller, standalone markets are moving from GaAs to Gallium Nitride (GaN), offering higher performance and reliability.

To accommodate these new requirements and evolving technology, mergers and acquisitions have abounded across the industry as companies look to enter new serviceable markets, or acquire those already playing in them, to offer more complete solutions to their target markets. As a result, manufacturing and technical experience are combining under one roof to service these new, large volume markets.

There have been plenty of consolidations over the decades, including notable historic ones such as Siemens and Infineon to Intel, but with today’s emerging markets and accelerating demands, consolidation efforts seem to be proliferating: RFMD and Triquint to Qorvo, Microsemi to Microchip, Avago and Broadcom  and recent efforts such as Broadcom’s bid for Qualcomm and Qualcomm’s offer to NXP. Further, many historically standalone and general purpose RF companies that broadly address the market have narrowed their focus to largely consumerist high-volume markets, where the cost of highly integrated semiconductor content becomes affordable.

What’s the Result?

The evolution of technology and new serviceable markets has been exciting, yet as companies shift their focus to these high-volume, consumer-focused markets, the high-performance RF market is becoming an afterthought for many. A void is being created—one that MACOM continues to play in and maximize.

Lower volume markets such as Aerospace and Defense, Test and Measurement and Industrial, Scientific and Medical (ISM), where product life cycles span years and longevity/surety of supply is essential, are facing potential cracks as vendors retreat from these markets. The good news is, MACOM remains committed to servicing these changes and serving customers with our broad and innovative RF portfolio, because RF Matters Here.

MACOM’s 65-year legacy of innovation is driving toward the industry’s broadest portfolio of MMICs, diodes and transistors for the entire RF signal chain, meeting the performance requirements to enable next-generation applications, aided by our extensive expertise in switching, GaN-on-Silicon and Coherent Beamforming technologies. MACOM is dedicated to delivering true competitive advantage with our breakthrough semiconductor technologies, broad product portfolio, surety of supply and applications expertise.

To learn more about our solutions, visit www.macom.com/products or utilize our cross-reference tool to find an alternative or replacement part for your RF application.

 

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