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Data Center Interconnect

Aquantia Throws Data Centers a Copper Lifeline

Aquantia said it is creating a 100Gbit/s all-electrical technology to deliver low latency for networking applications, notably data centers.

The approach would let data center operators hold off a transition to more expensive optical interconnect in a narrow but significant set of circumstances. Aquantia Corp. also makes the case that its technology would help enable data center operators to migrate to the spine-and-leaf architecture that many in the industry are coming to believe will be a more efficient configuration for data centers. (See ONOS, ONF Create Integrated NFV Approach.)

There are multiple factors in the equation that make optical interconnect inevitable for longer connections -- hundreds of meters to a couple of kilometers -- inside data centers. At these longer distances, the result of the equation is that optical interconnect is both necessary and affordable.

There are many, many more connections within data centers that are only 3 meters or less, however, between servers and switches within a rack, and between neighboring racks. At these distances, the need for much higher connection speeds indicates an impending need for optical interconnect, but combined with other factors the costs spiral out of control. Furthermore, the physics get perilous; there is a lot of heat generated by the servers in-rack and the performance of the lasers in optical interconnect is highly dependent on temperature.

Aquantia believes it has solved this dilemma with its QuantumStream technology. The company has developed an IC that delivers a single-lane 100Gbit/s stream on copper wire.


Want to know more about communications ICs? Check out our comms chips channel here on Light Reading.


Phil Delansey, the company's senior vice president of business development and one of its cofounders, explained to Light Reading that Aquantia went looking for the highest-performance serdes (serializer/deserializer) and found a 56Gbit/s version developed by its manufacturing partner GlobalFoundries Inc.

Aquantia combines the 56Gbit/s IP core with its own mixed-mode signal processing (MMSP) and multi-core signal processing (MCSP) innovations developed for high-speed interconnect over copper.

With the combination, Aquantia is able to squeeze 100 Gbit/s of throughput on copper using a single SFP connector. Delansey reiterated several times that Quantum Stream is not 4 x 25 Gbit/s or even 2 x 50 Gbit/s -- it is straight 100 Gbit/s.

Delansey added that Aquantia's technology can step to 400 Gbit/s and 800 Gbit/s using OSFP connectors.

In addition, Aquantia has licensed its QuantumStream IP to GlobalFoundries; other GlobalFoundries customers can incorporate it into their own ASICs.

Aquantia is a privately held semiconductor design house, with more than $210 million in venture capital invested from Intel, Xilinx, GlobalFoundries, VentureTech and others. Delansey said the company is profitable. He described Aquantia's status as "pre-IPO," however.

— Brian Santo, Senior Editor, Components, T&M, Light Reading

jbtombes 10/26/2016 | 9:52:44 AM
reports of copper's death... Interesting niche app, showing that copper indeed lives. You can do 100 - 120 Gbps already, though it's bundled 10 Gbps channels. So looks like the pure 100 is the differentiator here.
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