What good is state-of-the-art high-speed electronics without good connectivity?

-February 25, 2016

While at DesignCon 2016 this year, I stopped by the TE Connectivity exhibit and spoke to Nathan L. Tracy, Standards Manager for the System Architecture Team. He showed me the latest innovations in connectivity. We often tend to forget about connectors and cables when we discuss the amazing speeds and bandwidths in today’s systems. Design engineers need speed, scalability, space-savings, reduced thermals, power and reach and the weakest link in the system can be the transmission media cables and PC board/Mother board. All the goodness of the super-speed FPGAs, processors and other ICs can be negated by an inferior architecture to carry those signals from place to place.


One highlight of their new products was the new microQSFP Solutions Connector. See Figures 1 and 2. 


Figure 1 TE Connectivity Micro Quad Small Form Factor (MicroQSFP) Solutions connectors provides an integrated module thermal solution that allows 30% better thermal performance than QSFP28 solutions and removes the largest source of thermal resistance, ultimately requiring less energy to cool equipment and increasing the ease of system thermal design.



Figure 2 TE Connectivity’s Micro Quad Small Form Factor (MicroQSFP) interconnect solutions is a 4x28G solution provides QSFP28 functionality in a smaller, generally SFP-sized form factor. The design has 33% higher density than QSFP to fit more ports (up to 72) on a standard line card, saving precious design space with a 14.25mm port-to-port pitch.


TE will be the first to develop microQSFP connectors and cages in accordance with the new specification released by the microQSFP Multi-Source Agreement (MSA) group on January 15, 2016.  TE took the lead in forming the microQSFP MSA, and say they expect to have standards-compliant products in the market during the first half of 2016. See Figure 3 for the microQSFP, 200 Gbps, PAM-4 copper cable demo at DesignCon, and watch a demo video below.

(Click image to enlarge)

Figure 3 This demo showed a TE microQSFP connector and cable with 56Gbps PAM-4 across passive, three meter long, copper cables. This system allows for more than 14 Tbps switch in one RU line card with low crosstalk and insertion loss proven at 28Gbps NRZ and 58Gbps PAM-4.

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