Altera demonstrates world’s first optical FPGA technology

The technology demonstration is one in a series of recent innovations delivered by Altera, including the industry’s first OpenCL program for FPGAs and 28-Gbps transceiver technology delivering the industry’s highest data rates with superior signal integrity.

As data rates begin to approach 100-Gbps and over, more bandwidth is going to be required for next-generation applications in the computer and storage, communication infrastructure, and broadcast markets. By integrating programmable devices and optical transceivers within a single package, Altera’s Optical FPGA technology is able to break through the reach, power, port density, cost, and circuit board complexity limitations associated with copper-based and conventional optical solutions.

“The Optical FPGA technology demonstration underscores Altera’s commitment to develop innovations that address major industry challenges and ultimately, enable new innovations,” said Bradley Howe, vice president of IC Engineering at Altera. “As data rate demands continue to rapidly increase, engineers need to look beyond copper and traditional optical solutions in order to meet the performance, cost, and power demands of next-generation video, cloud computing, and 3D gaming applications.”

The demonstration shows Altera’s Optical FPGA technology on a test board derived from the company’s Stratix IV FPGA 100G development kit, integrated with Avago Technologies” 12-Channel MicroPOD optical modules. By integrating high-speed optical transceivers onto the package that holds the FPGA, the electrical signal path from the I/O pad of the chip to the input of the optical transceiver has been reduced to a fraction of an inch. This shorter path reduces signal degradation and jitter, improving signal integrity and reducing data errors caused by parasitic elements in the signal path. Such integration can also help engineers reduce their overall board development and engineering costs.

In a loopback configuration, the demonstration shows 100GbE traffic of assorted packet sizes sent and received using the chip’s internal traffic generator. The data path is sent back and forth through the FPGA transceivers and optical modules to achieve a bit error rate (BER) of 10^-12 or less. The short routing distance keeps signal integrity high and the emitted electromagnetic interference very low. Digital diagnostics monitoring (DDM), such as module case temperature and laser bias current, is also shown detecting potential issues and preventing link loss. This is especially critical for data centre applications where link downtimes can equate to millions of dollars in lost revenue. Finally, the demonstration shows the optical FPGA’s unique heat-sinking capability, which ensures the optics stay within the standard 0°C to 70°C temperature range.

“As the world leader in Data Centre optics, Avago worked with Altera to combine our proven MicroPOD optical modules with its Stratix FPGAs, taking the concept of embedded parallel optics to the next level of integration,” said Philip Gadd, vice president and general manager of the Fibre Optics Product Division at Avago. “This will allow FPGA users to utilise the high bandwidth and compact size advantages of parallel optical interfaces that are currently used in data centres.”

Altera

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