Center Stage at OFC 2017: Breaking New Barriers in Optical Bandwidth Density   Mar. 20, 2017

DatacenterB.pngWith OFC 2017 in full swing this week, vendors from across the optical networking industry are gathered in Los Angeles to showcase the latest and greatest products and technologies targeted for Cloud Data Centers, client access and metro and long haul applications. Across all of these apps, skyrocketing data rates are putting ever increasing pressure on data center and network operators to maximize their bandwidth density, measured in bit rate per available space and power budget. It’s no surprise then that “cost per bit” metrics will be top of mind at OFC this year.

As hundreds of millions of new subscribers and new Internet of Things (IoT) infrastructure come online in the years ahead, it’s imperative that we work together to accelerate the transition to higher-performing, power and space efficient optical interconnects at 100G and beyond. OFC affords vendors and customers alike an ideal forum to compare notes and connect in-person with the community of technologists that are driving major innovations in this domain.

Cloud Data Centers are particularly affected by our collective efforts to drive down per-bit delivery costs. Whereas telecom service providers can today justify the investment in 100G technology for decades-long deployment, data center operators will initiate network upgrades every three to five years, incrementally growing their bandwidth capacity at cost structures that are 1/5 of existing infrastructure. 

MACOM at OFC 2017

MACOM has a host of product announcements and demonstrations on tap for OFC 2017, and our subject matter experts will be well represented in live presentations and panel discussions throughout the week. This year, we are excited to play what we believe is a leading role enabling the upgrade from 10G to 100G optical connectivity within Cloud Data Centers. MACOM brings to bear the proven cost structure, capacity and supply chain flexibility that achieved preeminent market share in the PON Access market, and products and platform innovation that achieved similar success with 100G technology in Long Haul, Metro and DCI networks.

All are invited to join us at booth #1736 to talk trends and learn more about our optical technology portfolio – a portfolio that’s growing quickly through intensive in-house R&D and strategic acquisitions. Speaking of which, we’re delighted to join forces with our new colleagues from Applied Micro at OFC this year, where we’ll highlight the unique value of our combined solution for 100G data center connectivity, spanning PAM-4 DSP, linear driver and linear TIA specifically designed to enable 100G per lambda transceiver modules, with a clear pathway to 400G.


OFC attendees and non-attendees alike are invited to read our newly-published Optical and Photonic Manifesto and Etched Facet Technology Manifesto, which provide a comprehensive overview of MACOM’s product initiatives and technology differentiators in the fast-moving optical networking domain. Together they provide in-depth insight into the trends we’re tracking and innovations we’re spearheading to maximize optical bandwidth density in the cloud data center and beyond.

For an overview of MACOM’s news announcements at OFC 2017, be sure to visit our News and Events page. We look forward to seeing you at the show!

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RF Energy in Daily Life Part 3: Medical Applications   Mar. 07, 2017

RFEnergyBlogMedical.jpgEarlier blog posts in our “RF Energy in Daily Life” series have highlighted the many advantages that Gallium Nitride (GaN) technology enables for solid state cooking and plasma lighting applications, where GaN is widely expected to make a transformative impact across commercial and industrial market segments.

We use this word a lot – “transformative” – when talking about breakthrough semiconductor technologies, and rightly so when one considers the far-ranging implications of these technologies for our daily lives. In this blog post we’ll assess the promise of GaN for medical applications, where GaN-based RF devices will improve physicians’ abilities to save lives and enhance the quality of life for patients around the world. When technology and healthcare innovation intersect, it doesn’t get much more transformative than that. 


Today’s RF medical devices are designed to heat biological cells and tissue for medical treatments ranging from RF/microwave ablation to bacteria sterilization, with minimal invasiveness. Compared to legacy semiconductor technologies, GaN offers these key advantages:

Precision control – GaN is capable of offering high efficiency at ISM frequencies below 3 GHz, while also supporting frequencies up to 5.8 GHz and higher. The higher the frequency, the shorter the wavelength, enhancing the precision and control of the RF energy field. This improves treatment accuracy while simultaneously reducing the risk of damaging adjacent tissues and organs.

High power with better efficiency – GaN delivers raw power density that is considerably higher than LDMOS, with 10% better efficiency. This enables more power to be directed to the treatment site to dehydrate and/or burn away tumors and unwanted tissue, with reduced power consumption and thermal constraints at the system level.


RF/microwave ablation techniques are commonly employed today for removing cancerous tumors, and will see continued improvement as GaN enters the RF medical device market. The evolution to higher efficiency opens the door to expanded use in cosmetic surgery and dentistry.

Hyperthermia therapy is quickly emerging as another core target application for RF energy. Typically practiced in combination with other cancer treatments, physicians can use targeted RF energy to elevate the temperature of patients’ body tissue at the cancer site. The controlled heat (104 oF to 108oF) stresses the cancer cells and reduces cancer cell replication without impeding DNA replication among healthy cells. This technique holds great potential as a mainstream cancer treatment in the years ahead.

Looking to the future, we envision that GaN-based RF medical devices will be used for warming blood and organs for transfusions and transplants. In the case of blood transfusions, RF energy can enable stored, chilled blood to be heated quickly and uniformly without creating harmful toxins, allowing rapid transfusions in emergency situations. Similarly, the ability to freeze and rapidly defrost donated organs without causing cellular damage could extends the organs’ shelf life and increase the odds of a successful donor/recipient match over longer timeframes and distances.

The widespread adoption of GaN for RF energy applications in commercial, industrial and medical domains heralds exciting changes that will impact all of us, and may even extend our lives. Be sure to keep abreast of MACOM’s continued innovation in the months ahead as we work with our partners and customers to bring these transformative technologies into the mainstream.

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PAM-4 and the Path to 100G and 400G in the Data Center   Feb. 14, 2017

PAM4 Blog.jpg (network server room)Much has been written about the proliferation of data center infrastructure in recent months, with new data center build outs announced at a rapid clip, each with facility footprints so large that they’re commonly measured in football fields. This aggressive build out activity will augment existing data center infrastructure that’s already massive in scale.

For data center infrastructure both new and old, system designers are moving quickly to implement 100G interconnects to better accommodate the deluge of east-west data center traffic driven by burgeoning user demand for online data and multimedia. Experts forecast that the 100G market is expected to exceed 15 million ports by 2020, and the ground is already being laid for the subsequent transition to 400G.


The need for 100G connectivity in the data center has been crystal clear, but the pathway to mainstream 100G adoption was somewhat less so. Early implementations of 100G optical transceivers utilized the NRZ signal modulation scheme, which proved to be a viable solution. But as is the case with any major technology transition, system designers sought a clear industry standard that resolved any lingering ambiguities among competing approaches – an agreed-upon standard that they could coalesce around with confidence.

The single-wavelength (lambda) PAM-4 modulation scheme has emerged as that standard. Advocated by AppliedMicro, Cisco and others, and adopted by the IEEE, PAM-4 has proved to be the most cost-effective, efficient enabler of 100G and 400G in the data center to date. For 100G transceivers, single-wavelength PAM-4 technology reduces the number of lasers to one and eliminates the need for optical multiplexing. For 400G implementations, only four optical assemblies are needed, representing a major opportunity for data center operators to reduce their CAPEX and OPEX with an extremely compact and energy efficient module.


MACOM joined forces with AppliedMicro and BrPhotonics to demonstrate the first ever successful demonstration of 100G single wavelength PAM-4 technology at ECOC 2016. The demo blended AppliedMicro’s 16nm FinFET 100Gb/s PAM4 DSP, a BrPhotonics TFPS modulator, and a MACOM TIA. It was an eye-opening demonstration that prompted one industry expert to conclude that, “this technology is coming faster than many people think.”

That was a prescient observation. In a similarly forward-looking move, MACOM cemented our collaboration with AppliedMicro when we acquired it earlier this year, combining our core strengths in optical networking technology to help accelerate the volume deployment of 100G transceivers for data center applications, with a clear pathway to 400G. Working side by side, our combined team of technology experts are collaborating with customers to help lower optical infrastructure costs and boost overall port density in the data center, whether they’re implementing legacy NRZ or next-generation PAM-4 gear.

MACOM’s acquisition of Applied Micro brings together two complementary portfolios, enabling us to offer a proven solution including a PAM-4 DSP, linear driver and linear TIA specifically designed to enable 100G per lambda modules. For more information about our product portfolio and technology strategy, be sure to visit us at OFC 2017 (Booth #1736).

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Achieving Better Buying Power with Next Generation Military Radar   Jan. 31, 2017

BBP Blog Image.jpg (F22 Raptor)Around the world and in the U.S., intensifying security threats are being met with increased military spending on new and improved technologies designed to help establish and maintain peace. Radar systems play a critical role in this effort by enhancing threat detection and mitigation capabilities, and strengthening communication networks across land, sea, air and space.

But the strong need to invest in scalable radar technology is counterbalanced by an equally strong need to reduce strains on the defense budget. This is where the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Better Buying Power (BBP) initiative comes into play.

What is the Better Buying Power Initiative?

Launched in 2010 and now in its third iteration, BBP 3.0 is a mandate for aerospace and defense (A&D) contractors and the surrounding ecosystem to “do more without more.” The initiative is specifically designed to help the DoD achieve greater efficiency and productivity in its defense spending, enabling more rapid development and acquisition of high-performance defense systems at reduced costs.

This is achievable in part by leveraging best practices established in the commercial sector. Utilizing integrated RF components, commercial packaging techniques and volume-scale manufacturing processes, a cost-effective military radar system may one day be assembled with the same ease and efficiency as a wireless base station. We’re not quite there yet, but this is where we’re headed.

Reducing the Cost of Active Antenna Arrays

As a decades-long partner to the A&D industry, MACOM welcomes the challenge and responsibility of BBP 3.0. Working in close collaboration with leading A&D contractors like Northrop Grumman and world-class research organizations like MIT Lincoln Laboratory, we’re pushing the boundaries of next generation radar technology while simultaneously lowering the associated cost structures.

The emergence of Active Electronically Scanned Arrays (AESAs) – or Active Antenna Arrays – has enabled significant gains in radar performance in recent years, and we’ve taken this technology a big step forward with the introduction of a new tile array radar architecture, embodied by the Scalable Planar Array (SPAR™) Tile.

MIT Lincoln Laboratory has confirmed that this tile array architecture demonstrates a greater than 5X reduction in the cost of active array front ends compared to the legacy brick array architecture introduced some 25 years ago. This is attributable in part to the commercial manufacturing efficiency and high-performance, surface mount RF components that MACOM brings with its SPAR Tile initiative.  

Achieving the Promise of BBP 3.0

Tile-based implementations of AESA technology set a strong foundation for a new generation of high-precision, agile radar systems that can be built quickly and cost effectively, and flexibly tailored and scaled for rapid deployment across the modern battlefield. This new technology exemplifies the full promise of the BBP 3.0 initiative, and ensures that our armed forces are equipped with superior radar technology that helps maintain the safety and security of our soldiers and civilians.

For more information on our collaboration with Northrop Grumman, click here, and for more information on our SPAR Tile initiative with MIT Lincoln Laboratory, click here. For an in-depth read on the advantages of the tile array architecture for next generation radar infrastructure, don’t miss our new article in Microwave Journal.

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