Is copper dead?

-January 12, 2016

"The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated," could have just as well been said about the use of copper interconnects as Mark Twain said about himself, in a letter when he had been confused with someone else who had actually died.

For as long as I've been coming to a DesignCon—and I attended the first one—I have heard it said, "surely we can't go that fast in copper, we have to switch to optical interconnects." When we were at 1 Gbps, this was said about 2.5 Gbps. When we were at 2.5 Gbps, this was said about 5 Gbps and every other generation after.

Now we hear it being said about 56 Gbps. Is this another case of crying wolf, or have we really reached some fundamental limits to copper interconnect technology?

Rula Bakleh has pulled together a group of industry leading experts for the panel, Optics vs copper for in-chassis connections @ 56-112 Gbps: is Copper still a viable solution, on Wednesday, January 20 at 3:45 pm.

Joining us on this panel will be, Mitchell Fields, Avago Technologies, Marc Verdiell, Samtec, Joel Goergen, Cisco, Scott McMorrow, Teraspeed, and Pavel Zivny, Tektronix. They will peer into their crystal balls, divine their tea leaves or rattle their bones to offer their perspectives on the transition from copper to optical interconnects. Is it 28 Gbps, 56 Gbps or can we still do copper at 112 Gbps? Or beyond?

The Optical Firefly Flyover component with heat sink from Samtec (source: Samtec).

Can we scale anything we currently have to get to these extremes? Which approach has the performance, is cost effective, offers lowest weight, higher density? Where will we go next, how will we get there, what are the stumbling blocks along the way, and who will have the first practical and cost effective solutions?

As moderator of this panel, I want to know the answers to these questions as much as everyone and I will facility data mining our panel of industry experts. These are the engineers and executives responsible for developing the next generation systems.

Come with your questions and we will explore the transition from copper to optics. Is now the right time?

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