PSM4 MSA Group targets alternative for data center 100G

Six technology vendors have created The PSM4 MSA Group, which will aim to promote the creation and adoption of Parallel Single Mode 4-lane (PSM4) approaches to 100 Gbps in the data center. The companies -- Avago Technologies, Brocade, JDSU, Luxtera, Oclaro, and Panduit – say that there is a need for PSM4 optical transceivers to fill the requirement for low-cost 100-Gbps connections in applications that fall in between the IEEE’s multi-wavelength 10-km 100GBase-LR4 singlemode fiber approach and its multimode-fiber-based 100GBase-SR10 short-reach specifications.

Six technology vendors have created The PSM4 MSA Group, which will aim to promote the creation and adoption of Parallel Single Mode 4-lane (PSM4) approaches to 100 Gbps in the data center. The companies -- Avago Technologies, Brocade, JDSU, Luxtera, Oclaro, and Panduit – say that there is a need for PSM4 optical transceivers to fill the requirement for low-cost 100-Gbps connections at reaches of 500 m in applications that fall in between the IEEE’s multi-wavelength 10-km 100GBase-LR4 singlemode fiber approach and its multimode-fiber-based 100GBase-SR10 short-reach specifications.

The IEEE took up the question of whether a new specification was required to fill perceived holes in its original 100 Gigabit Ethernet specifications as part of its current Next Generation High Speed Ethernet work (see “IEEE launches 100G optical Ethernet study group”). PSM4 was offered as a potential approach, but was countered by another proposal based on multi-level PAM4 signaling. The IEEE Task Force couldn’t come to a consensus on the best approach to use, so decided to focus on tweaking the 100GBase-LR4 specifications.

Members of the new group apparently believe the PSM4 approach has enough merit to catch on despite operating outside of the IEEE Ethernet umbrella.

“Brocade is pleased to be a member of the PSM4 MSA that is open to many vendors who will help drive these low-cost, 100GbE and 128GFC products,” said Martin Skagen, chief architect at Brocade, via a press release that announced the group’s formation. “The PSM4 MSA will enable 500-m data center reach links that will support key customer requirements.”

"PSM4 will be the first transceiver designed specifically to be a cost-effective solution for data-center link lengths up to 500 m,” asserted Tom Fawcett, vice president of business development at JDSU, in the same release. “With the prevalence of cloud computing and the move to ever higher data rates, intermediate-reach transceivers that use singlemode fiber will provide a compelling solution for our customers."

The group’s scope of work has caught the eye of at least one member of the market research community. “PSM4 is an interesting new standard as it provides an economic proving ground for emerging optical technologies such as LISEL (Lens Integrated Surface Emitting Laser) and silicon photonics alongside traditional DFB technology,” commented LightCounting Principal Analyst Dale Murray. LISEL is an Oclaro technology that had its genesis at Hitachi Labs and Opnext, the latter of which Oclaro acquired in 2012.

The PSM4 MSA Group is the second industry consortium to attack a perceived shortcoming within the IEEE’s 100 Gigabit Ethernet specifications. The 10x10 MSA, whose most eye-catching backer was Google, launched in 2010 with the goal of addressing 2-km requirements the MSA members believed the IEEE hadn’t adequately addressed. JDSU and Brocade were founding members of that group. While 10x10G optical transceivers based on the resultant specs have reached the market (see “Santur 10X10 MSA 100-Gbps CFP optical modules now generally available” and "NeoPhotonics touts 100G CFP2 transceivers for 10x10G and 100GBASE-LR4"; NeoPhotonics acquired Santur in 2011), their traction so far hasn’t matched the original hoopla that surrounded the organization’s initial founding. JDSU, in fact, decided against bringing such a module to market.

Those interested in more information about The PSM4 MSA Group can visit its website at www.psm4.org or follow along on Twitter via @100GPSM4.

For more information on optical transceivers and suppliers, visit the Lightwave Buyer’s Guide.

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