Semtech Strives for Data Center Interconnects with Latest Tri-Edge Chipsets

September 03, 2021 by Antonio Anzaldua Jr.

Hoping to take the "edge" off of data center workloads comes two new additions to Semtech's Tri-Edge family. What are they and how do they help data centers keep up through data center interconnects?

As more companies, processes, and people as a whole rely on and work more in the digital world, data center loads are feeling the pressure. This is especially true coming out of the 2020 pandemic as people were forced to work from home and find ways to entertain themselves, which both usually required the internet. 


Some of the challenges IT in data centers face.

Some of the challenges IT in data centers face. Image used courtesy of ZPE Systems


Hoping to relieve some of the weight resting on the data center's shoulders is Semtech Corporation (SMTC). Recently, it announced the launch of two new members of the Tri-Edge PAM4 CDR chipset devices that will enable 100G data center optical links and up to 400G on 100 meters of multimode fiber links.

Before jumping into the new chipset, it's important to first take a look at designing for intra-data center interconnections (DCI).


Designing for Intra-data Center Interconnects

DCIs are connections within the data center, such as the connection between one building and another. These connections can go for a few meters reaching up to 10 km. They can also go between a network of data centers and range from 10 km to 80 km in length.

Since heavy data traffic is typical in large data centers, new solutions are designed to prevent bottlenecking and data leakage. An example is a user who runs a search query through the search engine of a data center and receives a 10-page result. 

Those results are accessed from various machine-to-machine queries and are assembled within the main data center engine to show the user. If the user completed several queries simultaneously, the data accessed from various machines would bottleneck at the main intra-data center interconnect. 

One way to help combat this bottleneck in DCI systems requires high-speed optical transport networks with ultra-high bandwidth and low-power consumption. Overall, this solution's main design challenges are maintaining low noise data acquisition, quality thermal performance, and low power dissipation. 


Semtech’s Tri-Edge GN2558 and GN2559.

Semtech’s Tri-Edge GN2558 and GN2559. Screenshot used courtesy of Semtech Corporation


Semtech has been known for designing high-performing analog and mixed-signal semiconductors and has recently announced the full production of Tri-Edge clock data recovery (CDR) chipsets, enabling data center interconnectivity over multimode fibers. 

Based on SMTC's reference-free CDR architecture, the Tri-Edge products claim to provide multi-lane signal conditioners with high sensitivity, output jitter, and jitter tolerance solutions. 

Now that a bit more on DCIs is established, let's look at Semtech's latest chipset additions. 


Semtech Utilizes Tri-Edge, VCSEL Drivers, and TIAs

To begin with, the Tri-Edge builds on a previous development from Semtech, ClearEdge, which delivers low power dissipation and reduced latency for 200G and 400G data centers. Semtech added the GN2538 and GN2539 to the CDR platform. 

The first new member is the GN2538, a dual-channel, 50G PAM4 CDR with integrated vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser (VCSEL) drivers. The laser driver in the GN2538 enables a wide range of VCSEL options with a fully adaptive input equalization. 


The general structure of a VCSEL.

The general structure of a VCSEL. Image used courtesy of Kanakis et al


VCSELs can create communication links up to 500 meters in networks, enterprises, and data centers, which are generally used for chip-to-chip interconnections, touchless sensing, and gesture recognition. 

The GN2539, on the other hand, is a dual-channel, 50G PAM4 CDR with integrated trans-impedance amplifiers (TIAs) to encompass a strong receiver with a reliable connection. 

Since 2018, Semtech has evolved the PAM4 CDR platform for active optical cable (AOC) applications and optical interconnects for data centers. In addition, the PAM4 is a modulation scheme combining two bits into a single symbol with four amplitude levels. 

This integration effectively doubles a networks' data rate and enables 400G for short-haul transmission, as well as allows for TIAs to deliver low noise pre-amplification of the current signal and limit linear gain control for optical receivers. This low noise pre-amplification can be a huge help for DCIs since noise mitigation is often required during all queries of data acquisition. 

All in all, multimode fiber links are typically suggested as the go-to cabling when dealing with a distance of fewer than 50 meters. Semtech's added chipset features multimode fiber links that can go 100 meters and are thick cables that help deliver high-speed transmission with lower resistance than standard fiber cabling.

Semtech's Tri-Edge chipset portfolio could help large data centers meet the growing demands of high-performance computing, artificial intelligence, and cloud network systems.



Interested in other data center advancements? Find out more in the articles down below.

Data Centers are Only Getting Hotter, But Circuit Cooling Techniques Can Help

Marvell’s Data Center Strategy Behind Its $1.1B Acquisition of Innovium

AI Accelerator Chip with 1000 RISC-V Cores Shakes Up Data Center Inference