Vitesse unveils new ICsand XFP reference design

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Increased port density and lower-cost requirements are driving the market for XFP transceivers, a single module that targets multiple protocols, including SONET/SDH, 10-Gigabit Ethernet (10-GbE), and Fibre Channel. In an attempt to capitalize on this market, Vitesse (Camarillo, CA) has unveiled a series of IC components and a reference design aimed at reducing the barriers to entry into the XFP space.

Among the company's new components are the VSC7978 transimpedance amplifier (TIA) and VSC8233 dual-signal conditioners, which includes the transmit and receive signal conditioning as well as clock and data recovery (CDR) and the limiting-amplifier functions all in one chip. An all-in-one CDR device saves power and reduces board space by 22%, say company representatives. Vitesse has also announced the availability of various laser drivers, including the VSC7981 250-Th 156860

Vitesse recently announced a series of components for use in XFP transceivers as well as a complete XFP reference design that the company calls "the future of OEM/IC supplier cooperation."

"What Vitesse brings to the table is a complete XFP IC chipset," contends Richard Interrante, applications engineering manager with Vitesse's Transport Division. "We do have competitors; some offer laser drivers, some have CDRs. But nobody comes to the table with all three main functions: the laser driver, CDR, and TIA-and a reference design firmware to boot."

Vitesse plans to leverage these devices through its XFP Pro, a complete XFP module reference design initially targeting 10-km 10-GbE 10GBase-LR applications, per the IEEE 802.3ae standard. The reference design includes the schematic, layout, bill of materials, fabrication drawing, and application notes; it may be used "as is" or as a blueprint for a similar design.

Interrante compares the XFP Pro model to the PC motherboard model, "where a company that makes the primary components that you'd find on a PC motherboard then goes the extra step of manufacturing the motherboard itself because they have the expertise associated with the ICs," he explains.

According to Interrante, the XFP Pro will enable manufacturers to reduce development time. The typical module development process-from putting together the schematic to laying out and fabricating the board-takes about one year of development for a company, or about four years of staff time. "With the XFP Pro, assuming that a customer just copies and pastes what we've done, we're talking a total of about 14 weeks schedule time," he reports.

The XFP Pro includes a modular set of firmware that further reduces time-to-market. Firmware development is "probably the largest [project] in terms of staff hours," admits Interrante. "We figure it would take a couple of people over the course of a year to develop the same type of firmware we've developed here." The firmware is the onboard intelligence that ensures the module operates consistently and accurately over time. The XFP Pro enables users to choose the features they require.

However, the reference design makes some tier one vendors "nervous," notes Interrante. Those vendors like the XFP Pro because it enables them to round out their product portfolio, but it will also enable competitors to jump into the XFP space.

Jagdish Rebello, senior industry analyst, optical components, at iSuppli (El Segundo, CA), does not believe the tier one vendors have reason to fear the XFP Pro in the near-term. Potential XFP manufacturers still must develop industry relationships, he says, which can take time.

According to Rebello, the Vitesse reference design strategy illustrates an emerging trend. "With the burst of the bubble and the tremendous amount of layoffs, there are very few vendors with expertise in both the optics and the electronics," he observes. "So I think it's going to be crucial for more and more vendors like Vitesse, who play in the silicon space, to provide reference designs and prove their ability to work with other vendors' optics and electronics. I think you're going to see more and more of this in the future."

For its part, Vitesse plans to expand the XFP Pro to target the VSR-1, VSR/SR-1, and DWDM market segments. The company also plans to announce a small-form-factor-pluggable (SFP) equivalent of the XFP Pro.

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