1 June 2010


Luxtera’s silicon CMOS photonics modulators now support 30Gb/s serial data rates 

At this week’s International Supercomputing Conference (ISC 2010) in Hamburg, Germany, fabless silicon CMOS photonics firm Luxtera Inc of Carlsbad, CA, USA has announced that its optical modulators now support next-generation 30Gb/s serial data rates, a key step towards enabling four-lane parallel 100Gb/s interconnects.

Luxtera’s technology addresses the growing market for optical interconnects including next-generation Ethernet, Fiber Channel and InfiniBand networks projecting data speeds of up to 100Gb/s per port. Luxtera says that, by using silicon CMOS photonics, its transmitters support levels of optical bandwidth that provide what are claimed to be higher performance and longer reach at a lower cost than traditional datacenter technologies.

“As InfiniBand transitions to EDR data rates and Ethernet transitions to 100GE, there is an increasing need for low-cost, high-throughput interconnects to support large-scale computing systems and datacenters,” comments Lisa Huff of CIR and Discerning Analytics. “Traditionally, this market has been serviced by vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers (VCSELs) and multi-mode fiber, which may reach performance limitations beyond 10Gb/s,” she adds. “Luxtera’s silicon photonics-based transmitters enable datacenters to keep pace with bandwidth needs, providing end-users with enhanced performance that will support 100Gb/s deployments at economical cost points.”

Luxtera says that datacenter connectivity options, such as legacy copper and VCSEL-based multi-mode fiber transceivers, are currently limited in reach, size and performance. When pushing conventional, short-reach optical components to higher speeds of 30Gb/s and beyond, transceivers based on VCSEL technology will face technical obstacles such as achieving the required modulation bandwidth, receiver sensitivity and the effects of multimode-fiber dispersion, it adds. In addition, at higher data rates, VCSEL-based transceivers will be challenged to meet stringent performance and reliability requirements expected by datacenter managers. Luxtera says that it can use silicon CMOS photonics to break performance restrictions associated with existing optical technologies, lowering cost and eliminating reach limitation as well as reliability concerns to provide the bandwidth, low power and low bit error rate required by high-performance computer clusters and large-scale datacenters.

Silicon photonics transmitters use continuous wave (CW) lasers and Mach–Zehnder interferometer CMOS waveguide-based modulators. The firm says that this removes the need for expensive high-speed directly modulated lasers and, when combined with its fiber-to-the-chip single-mode fiber transmission, overcomes the shortcomings of multi-mode fiber. Luxtera has already demonstrated a 30Gb/s modulator system implemented in a monolithic silicon CMOS chip using production-ready technology.

“We are the first company to ship silicon CMOS photonics-based commercial products,” claims VP of marketing Marek Tlalka. “We are paving the way to the next wave of silicon photonics commercial applications as well as wide deployment of low-cost optical connectivity for EDR InfiniBand, 100G Ethernet and 28G Fibre Channel applications.”

At ISC 2010 (where Luxtera is co-exhibiting with its sales partner Stordis), the firm's Blazar 40G active optical cables (AOC) are once again providing connectivity for the ISCnet InfiniBand network, built for high-performance computing demonstrations, at this year’s event. By using silicon CMOS photonics and single-mode fiber, Blazar can support reach up to 4000m and offers what is claimed to be the industry’s lowest power consumption of 20mW per Gigabit. Blazar is currently shipping in production volumes. Next-generation products based on 30Gb/s transmitter technology will sample in 2011.

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