New Virtex-6 capabilities, Omiino acquisition point Xilinx toward 400G OTN FPGA support

By Stephen Hardy -- Countering moves from its competitors, particularly Altera, FPGA developer Xilinx (Nasdaq: XLNX) has unveiled its roadmap for support of FPGA-based line card designs for current 100-Gbps and eventual 400-Gbps Optical Transport Network (OTN) applications.

By Stephen Hardy -- Countering moves from its competitors, particularly Altera, FPGA developer Xilinx (Nasdaq: XLNX) has unveiled its roadmap for support of FPGA-based line card designs for current 100-Gbps and eventual 400-Gbps Optical Transport Network (OTN) applications. Xilinx has unveiled new Virtex-6 HXT FPGA capabilities for 100-Gbps OTU4 OTN designs, eased transition from the 40-nm Virtex-6 to the more capable 28-nm Virtex-7 for 400G OTN and beyond, and upgraded its in-house OTN expertise through the acquisition of UK intellectual property house Omiino.

The new capabilities will be offered initially in the form of the OTN Targeted Design Platform. The kit includes a Virtex-6 HXT FPGA development board with pre-defined and implemented reference designs for such OTN applications as 100G ODU switching, 100G Ethernet to OTU4 transponders, and 10x10 to OTU4 transponders. The OTN platform also leverages IP from the former Omiino, including 100G MuxSAR capabilities.

With interest in OTN soaring, particularly for applications in high-speed, packet-friendly core and metro networks, both FPGA and ASSP vendors have moved quickly to beef up their in-house capabilities. AppliedMicro got the ball rolling by acquiring TPACK (which uses a “soft silicon” FPGA approach optimized for Xilinx chips). Altera recently countered with its purchase of Avalon Microelectronics (see “Altera acquires OTN IP vendor Avalon Microelectronics”).

Xilinx reps don’t see being third in line as a disadvantage. While Xilinx had worked with Avalon Microelectronics, that company did not have the “premier partner” status Omiino enjoyed before its acquisition, Gilles Garcia, director of the Wired Communication Business Unit at Xilinx, told Lightwave. That’s because Avalon’s IP was engineered to be applicable to both FPGAs and ASICs; Omiino’s IP was optimized for FPGAs and therefore smaller in size, Garcia asserted.

Meanwhile, Xilinx has its eyes on future aggregate 400-Gbps OTN board designs, particularly those using future CFP2 or QSFP2 optical transceiver modules. Because the Virtex-6 and upcoming Virtex-7 share a unified architecture and support 28-Gbps jitter-compliant transceiver capabilities, moving up from the former to the latter will be relatively straightforward, Garcia asserts. The chips operate on a 1.0 V core voltage; a 0.9-V low-power option is available as well.

Typically, two Virtex-6 FPGAs will be required for 100-Gbps transponders and 10x10 over OTU4 muxSAR designs, Garcia said. The same designs could be completed with a single chip using the Virtex-7 – when it becomes available next year. Garcia says that several companies have already begun working with the two-chip Virtex-6 approach to speed time to market.

The Virtex-6 HXT FPGA OTN Kit for 100G OTN is $25,000 without optical modules. It will be available for order in April 2011.

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