First 1.6T PAM4 DSP for active electrical cables

First 1.6T PAM4 DSP for active electrical cables

New Products |
By Jean-Pierre Joosting

Marvell Technology has introduced the Marvell® Alaska® A 1.6T PAM4 DSP for active electrical cables (AECs), the industry’s first 1.6 Tbps AEC DSP to address emerging 200G/lane-based accelerated infrastructure architectures.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) applications are driving greater connectivity bandwidth requirements between AI accelerators, server to top-of-rack links and switch-to-switch interconnects within data center racks. The latest addition to the Alaska A family is built on 5nm process and leverages industry-leading Marvell PAM4 DSP technology to enable short-reach copper interconnect solutions that meet the growing bandwidth requirements of accelerated infrastructure.

According to 650 Group, the AEC silicon market is expected to grow at 64% per year to reach $1 billion by 2028 with DSPs powering AECs to reach nearly 40 million units per year. “AI is driving the need for short-reach copper connectivity at 1.6T,” said Alan Weckel, 650 co-founder. “Marvell leadership is clear with the introduction of its Alaska 1.6T AEC DSP, which continues the company’s history of delivering best-in-class PAM DSPs that enable cable vendors to offer interconnect solutions optimized for the different cloud AI architectures.”


Copper PAM4 DSP to drive infrastructure

The short-reach copper connections between AI accelerators, server to top-of-rack links and switch-to-switch interconnects within a rack have traditionally been addressed by direct attached cable (DAC). As speeds increase to 200G/lane, the distance over which passive DACs can be used declines significantly. AECs use PAM4 DSPs to retime the signal to extend the reach of copper interconnects and enable thinner cables within high-density data center racks.

AECs are increasingly being used in a wide variety of applications, including as part of the AI server compute fabric. Historically, most AI server designs used copper trace connections on printed circuit boards to connect accelerators to one another. Now, to address larger AI workloads, an increasing number of accelerators per AI server are needed, resulting in the distribution of accelerators across multiple boards within the rack that are connected using copper cables. As the speed of the accelerator-to-accelerator interconnects transitions to 200G/lane signaling, AECs will play a crucial role in enabling this connectivity.

The new Alaska A device leverages over a decade of Marvell PAM4 leadership. The Alaska A 1.6T DSP features eight 200 Gbps SerDes lanes to the host device and eight 200 Gbps SerDes lanes to the copper cable. The industry-leading equalization engine built into the Alaska A 1.6T DSP enables cable reaches of greater than three meters, addressing the reach requirements for inside-the-rack copper connections. The Alaska A 1.6T DSP is designed for next-generation accelerated infrastructure with 200 Gbps I/O interfaces on AI accelerators, GPUs, NICs and switches.

Key features of the Alaska A 1.6T AEC DSP include:

  • Proven DSP-based 200G PAM4 SerDes.
  • Advanced digital equalizer with Feed Forward (FFE), Decision Feedback (DFE) and Maximum Likelihood Sequence Detection (MLSD).
  • Greater than 3-meter reach at 200G/lane.
  • 200 Gbps per lane electrical line-side interface.
  • Optimized for QSFP-DD and OSFP form factors.
  • Retiming and gearboxing support.
  • Cable reference design for 1.6T AECs.
  • SDK support for advanced telemetry and diagnostics.

“The next wave of AI clusters will need 200 Gbps signaling to handle the bandwidth requirements of generative AI and large language models,” said Venu Balasubramonian, vice president of product marketing, Connectivity Business Unit, at Marvell. “The newest addition to our Alaska A product line extends our leadership in delivering PAM4 DSP technology for short-reach copper connectivity for cloud AI clusters.”

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