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Low-loss material, chip combine for better cables

Posted: 03 Oct 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:data center systems? low-loss dielectric material? signal conditioning chip? active cabling?

Cables intended for data center systems combine low-loss dielectric material with a signal conditioning chip to reduce power, size and latency of the cables while extending reach. Active Cables, the product of collaboration between Quellan Inc. and W.L. Gore & Associates, extend the reach of 10Gbps CX4-type cables from less than 10m to 35m.

Quellan and Gore are among a growing number of companies wrestling with the problem of large bundles of copper cables with limited reach that restrict air flow in and around systems. Intel Corp. launched in June a 20Gbps optical cable with integrated transceivers it said would be roughly equal in price to copper cables but extend reach to 100m. Luxtera rolled out in August its Blazar active optical cables that support data rates up to 40Gbps over 300m.

The Quellan/Gore approach uses a new low-loss dielectric material in the cables from Gore combined with a signal conditioning chip from Quellan embedded in the receiving connector. The resulting cables use one-fifth the power of standard CX4 cables and reduce the interconnect latency of the cable itself to 300picoseconds. They are about a third of the size and weight of CX4 cables, easing the problem of air flow in data center systems. They enable users to pack more computers into smaller clusters in the data center while improving critical power and thermal dynamics.

The Quellan chip currently handles four lanes of traffic at rates of 8.5Gbps per lane and will be rated up to 10Gbps per lane in the future. The 7mm x 4mm chip consumes 60mW per lane and processes noise cancellation in the analog domain.

"Power consumption is a paramount issue and the industry is devoid of low energy, small form factor solutions for this escalating problem'active' cabling is an innovative answer to this massive problem," said Joel Goergen, chief scientist at router maker Force10 Networks in a prepared statement.

Separately, Quellan announced it has closed a $20 million C round of financing that included investments from Gore and a personal investment from analog guru Robert Dobkin, who is joining Quellan's advisory board.

"Interference noise has been the preeminent limiting factor in communications for decades and Quellan has a unique method to mitigate it," said Dobkin in a prepared statement.

"The semiconductor industry continues to generate more noise than noise cancellation," said Tony Stelliga, chief executive of Quellan, "So we see many opportunities in areas that include enabling better GPS products," he added.

- Rick Merritt
EE Times

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