With the first half 0f 2016 behind us, Bishop & Associates’ Dave Brearley takes a look at the hot products and technologies that are dominating the year so far.

Writing about connector innovations is always fun; recent developments are no exception. Innovative connector solutions have been introduced that increase density, speed, flexibility, reliability, and power delivery. There are even several new solutions being promoted that promise to deliver power without any physical connection at all.

First, in the category of increased density, two new front-panel pluggable form factors are being developed with the objective of increasing the bandwidth and number of ports that can be packed into a standard 1U enclosure.


MicroQSFP chassis

1U chassis with 72 MicroQSFP ports available on the front panel

MicroQSFP squeezes all of the functionality of QSFP (four channels) into an SFP-sized port that allows up to 72 ports on the front of a 1U switch card. Each port can run signals at 25 or 50Gb/s, providing bandwidth up to 100Gb/s per port. Pluggable fibers can connect each port to the next-level upstream or downstream element, making this a very efficient and convenient switch architecture. Special attention has been paid to improved thermal management with air channels between blocks of four ports. Promoting members of the MicroQSFP Multi Source Agreement include Broadcom, Brocade, Cisco, Dell, Foxconn, Huawei, Intel, Lumentum, Juniper, Microsoft,Molex, and TE Connectivity.


QSFP-DD doubles the bandwidth per port and improves thermal performance.

QSFP-DD doubles the bandwidth per port and improves thermal performance.

QSFP-DD is a new standard for pluggable modules that promises high-speed, double-density connectors for optical fibers to system front panels. With eight lanes carrying 25Gb/s NRZ signal streams or 50Gb/s PAM4 streams, it is possible to have up to 14.4 Tb/s of aggregate bandwidth from one switch slot as well as to place up to 36 of these ports on one front panel, each carrying up to 400Gb/s.

This important new MSA (multisource agreement) is supported by chip suppliers like Broadcom, Mellanox, and Intel; system suppliers including Brocade, Cisco, and Juniper; optical device suppliers including Finisar, Lumentum, Luxtera, Oclaro: and connector suppliers including Molex, Foxconn, and TE Connectivity.

On-board Optical Transceivers

samtec-fireflyOn-board optical transceivers are making huge advances with increased capacity and reduced cost. In principle, the idea is to place an optical transceiver as close as possible to the host ASIC or CPU, thus minimizing the electrical signal length on the PCB to reduce attenuation and signal distortion. The optical transmitter is then connected to an optical cable that can “fly over” all of the objects on the board to a conventional optical front-panel connector.

Significant products include Amphenol-FCI’sLEAP on-board transceiver, which delivers an aggregate 300Gb/s transmission over 12 fibers in an MT connector format, and Samtec’s Firefly system, which provides a 28Gb/s receptacle connector on the board that can mate with fiber transceivers, multi-conductor coax, or high-speed twinax cables. The Firefly system also offers active or passive equalization inside the cable, which permits longer cable lengths or higher data rates. Samtec is aggressively tooling variants of this family to expand the customer base for mid-board pluggable solutions.

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