Luxtera launches single chip transceiver for motherboard deployment

NOVEMBER 11, 2009 By Stephen Hardy -- Silicon photonics company Luxtera has expanded its portfolio with the new OptoPHY product line. The PCB-mountable optical transceivers are designed to compete with SNAP-12 and electrical interconnect for backplane and related applications.

NOVEMBER 11, 2009 By Stephen Hardy -- Silicon photonics company Luxtera has expanded its portfolio with the new OptoPHY product line. The PCB-mountable optical transceivers are designed to compete with SNAP-12 and electrical interconnect for backplane and related applications.

According to Marek Tlalka, vice president of marketing at Luxtera, the OptoPHY delivers a significant density advantage over the SNAP-12. Whereas the SNAP-12 comprises separate transceiver and receiver modules, the OptoPHY is a true transceiver, and therefore performs both functions in the same unit.

The OptoPHY operates at 1490 nm over as much as 4000 m of singlemode fiber. The company is currently sampling 1x10-Gbps (LUX6001) and 4x10-Gbps (LUX6004) versions of the device. A 12.x12.5-Gbps version is expected to be available for sampling by the middle of 2010.

The device measures 17 mm W x 32.25 mm L x 13.5 mm H. The single-lane version consumes 450 mW, while the four-lane device requires 800 mW. Luxtera offers unterminated pigtail and LC connector termination options; multiple pigtail lengths are available.

Tlalka says he sees optical backplanes as the largest initial application for the devices. However, Luxtera hopes to see front-panel applications such as enterprise networking, InfiniBand, storage, and Ethernet in the future as well. For example, in an application such as a 36-port Gigabit Ethernet switch connecting to a 4x10-Gbps NIC, an OptoPHY approach would cost roughly the same as one based on 10GBase-T, but provide significantly better performance, Tlalka asserts.

The technology has drawn kudos from the analyst community.

“10 Gbps is the new system interconnect ‘currency,’” said Brad Smith, senior vice president and analyst at LightCounting, LLC. “But the current generation of high-speed systems for switch/routers, supercomputers, telecom equipment, datacom and servers are built internally with 2.5G/5G SNAP-12 technology developed in 1998 -- three years before the iPod! This requires four transmitter/receivers, at 2.5 W, costing $400+ each. Full-duplex connections cost $1,600, burn 10 W power, a large board space. The market begs for a new solution. Optical technology, once relegated to the long haul and inter-system interconnects, now moves inside the box and is clearly heading for optics-on-a-chip.”

“To address the need for increasing data rates, data centers have had to choose between lower cost, lower performance electrical interconnects or higher performance, higher cost optical interconnects. Using silicon photonics technology, Luxtera’s new OptoPHY product line is designed to address this problem by delivering high performance optical interconnects at costs below one dollar per Gbps,” said Steve Conway, IDC research vice president for HPC. “Providing high-performance connectivity in a small form factor at more affordable price points represents a major milestone for optical communication.”

Luxtera says pricing varies depending upon the number of channels, connector options, and volume. But it will reach less than a dollar per Gbps in the 12-channel configurations.

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