PAM-4-to-NRZ Signal Conversion Test Solution for Data Centres

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  • Built by Keysight in collaboration with Credo, the solution allows operators to link 400 Gigabit Ethernet (GE) capable test ports with 100GE network equipment
  • PAM4-to-NRZ signal conversion is completed using optical transceiver technology

Keysight Technologies has announced a cost-effective test solution, the Ixia AresONE 400GE High Performance that enables data centre operators to leverage 400 Gigabit Ethernet (GE) capable test ports to link with and test legacy 100GE network equipment.

The new test solution is based on Pulse Amplitude Modulation level-4 (PAM4) signalling interconnection to 100GE non-return-to-zero (NRZ) networking equipment ports using Credo’s HiWire Active Electrical Cable (AEC) technology. It also provides speed-shifting of the signalling rates and forward error correction (FEC) conversion.

Enabling greater compatibility

As of now, many data centre operators have widely deployed 100GE NRZ-based technologies. However, higher speeds, such as 400GE, provide a new mixed signalling and mixed FEC in a multi-rate environment. This new environment produces unique challenges relating to the integration of PAM-4-based 400GE and 100GE-capable switch ports with existing 100GE NRZ signalling-based switch port technology.

Therefore, the combined Keysight and Credo test solution bridges the gap between incompatible PAM4- and NRZ-encoded signalling. It removes potential testing issues to improve overall performance validation and quality. The AEC cable technology performs the necessary conversions to allow a PAM4-encoded port to interoperate with an NRZ-encoded port. The solution provides support for testing four ports of 100GE NRZ from a single port of 400GE QSFP-DD PAM4 in 4x100GE speed mode.

“Data centre operators are faced with a complex environment and need to leverage their existing investments for the future,” said Ram Periakaruppan, vice president, product development, Keysight’s Network Applications & Security group. “The Ixia AresONE 400GE test system supports Credo’s interconnect technology in high-density 100GE testbeds, enabling data centre operators to accelerate validation of 100GE NRZ devices and network infrastructure while leveraging 400GE-capable PAM-4 ports to support demand in the future.”

Flexible configurability

The AEC also allows flexibility in the configuration of network rack equipment. Data centre operators can install 400GE-capable ports and connect them when and where needed to legacy 100GE NRZ ports. Testing performed with the Ixia AresONE 400GE combined with the Credo HiWire SERDES speed shift and PAM4-to-NRZ conversion technology is completed at a fraction of the cost of the equivalent configuration using optical transceiver technology.

“Keysight’s Ixia AresONE 400GE test solution with 4x100GE per port fan-out has the scale and performance to meet the verification needs of multi-terabit Distributed Disaggregated Chassis networks,” said Jeff Twombly, Vice President of Business Development at Credo. “It is great to see them leverage our HiWire AEC interconnect solution to deliver this industry-leading and innovative data centre solution.”


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