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Short answer: the cloud. Thanks to cloud computing and cloud applications, data centers are having to manage large data transfers in very short periods of time. System-on-chip (SoC) solutions that support 40/100 Gbit Ethernet (GbE) are now in demand, and for this reason, Cadence today (Feb. 21, 2012) is rolling out a 40/100 GbE silicon IP solution.
At the Ethernet Technology Summit in San Jose, California this week, Cadence is introducing a 40/100 GbE media access controller (MAC) and two physical coding sub-layer (PCS) IP cores aimed at SoCs for networking and high-performance computing. This should not be surprising, given that Cadence has offered Ethernet IP for a decade with over 50 tapeouts spanning 1 GbE to 40 GbE. But why 40/100 GbE now, and how will it be used?
Aiming at Data Centers
First, a bit of background. 40/100 GbE, also known as IEEE 802.3ba, is not a brand new standard - it was ratified in June 2010. It provides two implementations - 40 GbE with four 10 GbE links (or lanes), or 100 GbE with ten such links. An additional standard that uses 25 GbE links is in the works. While 1 GbE is widely used in consumer electronics, and 10 GbE is aimed at enterprise-class networking, the main focus for 100 GbE is data centers that need to manage huge amounts of data.
Neil Hand, group marketing director for SoC Realization, noted that 100 GbE is being deployed today but its use on SoCs is just getting underway. Some earlier applications put the PCS and SerDes off chip (the PCS plus SerDes effectively comprise the physical layer or PHY). But today, the PCS and SerDes are coming back on chip into SoCs, driving the need for reusable silicon IP.
What's driving the move to SoCs, Neil said, is the insatiable need for more throughput and bandwidth. "The move to the clouds does two things," he said. "First, the data center is getting bigger, which requires more communication. Secondly, there's a new [networking] architecture that has to support a new class of applications. It's not one big job that runs and then stops, it's lots of little stuff flittering all over the place."
The move to 40 and 100 GbE makes IP and SoCs more complex. One reason is on-chip integration of the PCS and SerDes, along with 4 or 10 data lanes. Another is the existence of various Ethernet "sub-standards" that call for different IP configurations. Complexity also extends out to the package and the board, where signal integrity, typically not a big deal at 1 GbE, becomes a serious concern at 40 and 100 GbE.
Comprehensive IP Solution
The Cadence 40/100 GbE solution provides full support for the IEEE standard. And Cadence was deeply involved in the formation of the IEEE 802.3ba standard, along with other standards activities under the IEEE 802.3 umbrella. As depicted in the diagram below, the solution includes the following products:
Cadence 40/100 GbE IP solution
Additionally, Cadence supports IEEE 803.2ba with verification IP, SpeedBridge adapters for emulation, and emulation and Virtual System Platform models. SerDes support will follow later this year. Key features of the MAC and PCS IP include power efficiency, configurable features such as priority-based flow control mechanisms for customization of traffic control, a programmable inter-frame gap feature, and comprehensive monitoring features. A datasheet has further information about the IP solution.
If your data is in the cloud - and some of it almost certainly is - it may flow a little more smoothly and quickly thanks to the use of 40/100 GbE and reusable design IP.