Agilent Gets Jittery With It

Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A) is claiming an industry first with the announcement of a new jitter analysis tester that it says can accurately separate random and deterministic jitter from 50 Mbit/s to 40 Gbit/s (see Aglient Analyzes Jitter).

Big deal? Yes, for carriers that sweat their networks. According to Agilent, just about anyone that’s trying to get more bang for their buck out of old network equipment should benefit from this product.

”Companies are trying to put faster signals through the same old circuitry, and it was never designed to operate that way… The biggest problem is controlling the jitter,” says Steve Hinch, business segment manager in Agilent’s Digital Verification Solutions Division.

By getting a better grip on what’s causing this jitter, Aglient says companies can maintain older equipment for longer. Agilent has improved its digital communications analyzer oscilloscope [ed. note: which, incidentally, also measures the amount of widdley-wee on other planets], to assess different types of jitter. It can spot random jitter, deterministic jitter, data dependent jitter, pattern jitter, inter-symbol interference, and duty cycle jitter. [Ed. note: Yes, we're starting to sound like that "shrimp" guy from Forrest Gump.]

The lowdown on all types of jitter is that it causes data to break up and arrive at the end of the line at different times, which isn’t good.

For network equipment companies like Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU), and Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT), these measurements are critical to finding and eliminating signal integrity issues that delay getting new products to market.

Agilent says the jitter tester is applicable for design and test engineers working on standards such as CEI, XFP, Fiber Channel, Gigabit Ethernet, and PCI Express.

Steve Hubbins, silicon evaluation specialist at Texas Instruments Inc. (NYSE: TXN), was using a homebrew kit to measure jitter before he discovered Aglient’s new tool. “It would take me about seven hours, and now I can do it in less than a minute,” he says.

The closest competing technology is what’s known as a real-time scope -- a tool made by companies such as Tektronix Inc. (NYSE: TEK), LeCroy Corp., and Aglient. Real-time scopes, however, cannot measure data rates above 3 Gbit/s, Agilent claims.

— Jo Maitland, Senior Editor, Boardwatch

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