Fabless company Aquantia is making a bold move to 100Gbit/s to deliver low latency for networking applications, particularly data centres.

According to Aquantia co-founder and senior vice president for business development, Philippe Delansay, the move is a requirement for the fast evolving hyperscale data centres.

"When data centres only had North-South data flows between aggregation switches and top-of-rack switches, there was a linear correlation between the total IP traffic and the aggregate data centre bandwidth. But with novel Leaf-Spine architectures, server-to-server traffic now flows East-West too, and data centre bandwidth accelerates beyond global IP traffic," Delansay said.

Then Delansay cited the results from a recent survey from Crehan Research, revealing that the majority of direct server and storage Ethernet network connections in hyperscale data centres are currently within 3 metres.

"We've figured out that if you could support 100Gbit/s on copper for up to 3 metres, we would serve a sizeable portion of the hyperscale data centre market, without the costs of deploying optical fibre," continued Delansay.

Listening to companies like Facebook, LinkedIn or Juniper Networks, Aquantia's co-founder notes that although 100Gbit Ethernet is the future, 100Gbit/s optical transceivers are considered as too expensive for massive deployment. Somehow, the industry seems to be ready to pay up to $1/1G for 100G links—a price tag that is unreachable with optics.

"Hence, why not keep optical fibres for long distances only?" suggested Delansay, confident that Aquantia's QuantumStream technology will deliver 100Gbit/s on a single-lane of copper at an unbeatable price.

So where does your IP come from? We asked.

"We knew we wanted to build a 100Gbit/s SerDes and we could have done that in house, but to speed time to market, we decided to start from state-of-the-art 56Gbit/s SerDes IP from GlobalFoundries," explained Delansay.

"We've licensed the IP so we could open it up and modify it to our own secret sauce to build a 100G SerDes. Then we license our IP back to GlobalFoundries," he continued, without revealing if Aquantia would get a free deal or still get royalties back from any semiconductor vendors willing to integrate its 100G SerDes in their chips.

The company combined the 56Gbit/s IP core with patented Mixed-Mode Signal Processing (MMSP) and Multi-Core Signal Processing (MCSP) architectures it has developed over the past. So far, Aquantia has tested critical pieces of the QuantumStream architecture in silicon and is confident to have silicon reaching data centres by 2018.

Built on standard CMOS 14nm FinFET, a single SerDes will support 100G over 50cm backplanes, 100G over 3 metres of direct attach cable small form-factor pluggable (SFP) transceivers and up to 400G over 3m Direct Attach Cable Quad-SFP transceivers.

Talking about future market prospects, Delansay shared the following view:

"Data centres represent tens of millions of ports. If we assume a price target of $100 (₹6,666.22) for each 100G port, that makes a billion dollars market opportunity. I am not saying we'll sell all the ports in that market, a portion will go to optical fibres, but we'll be first to market with actual silicon".

So why license your IP back to GlobalFoundries? We asked.

"Because we've got the ability and the mindset to eventually make QuantumStream an industry standard. Just last month, the technology for our 5/2.5 Gigabit NBASE-T PHY devices was IEEE-ratified as an industry standard (802.3bz). Companies can download the specs and turn out a chip, but we still maintain two to three years of advance over our competitors. By licensing our IP, we hope to increase the market size, and as the pie gets bigger, so does our share of revenues."

First published by EE Times Europe.