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Renesas, Intel team for first I3C intelligent switch

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty


Renesas Electronics has launched the first MIPI I3C intelligent switch devices for the next generation server motherboards and other infrastructure equipment.

Teams at Renesas and Intel worked closely on the conception, specification definition and other pre silicon activities for the I3C switch design. The collaboration continued to post silicon activities including software development and component and system level validation.

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The new chips reduce the complexity of high-performance system designs and enable I3C control plane networks with multiple initiator controllers such as CPU and Baseboard Management Controllers (BMC). This allows support for targets across a large physical network running at full speed by improving signal integrity and reducing capacitive loading. They also support heterogeneous designs by providing IO level shifting and protocol translation for mixed I2C/SMBus and I3C networks.

The MIPI I3C bus is a scalable control bus interface for connecting peripherals to processor or other management controllers. It offers advantages of high performance, improved reliability, very low power, and low electromagnetic interference (EMI). All of these benefits enable new system functionality such as advanced telemetry, fault recovery, sideband security, component authentication and faster boot times.

Current system designs often use the legacy I2C protocol and simple transistor-based switches to connect initiator and target devices on a motherboard. This approach cannot scale to I3C speeds, which fundamentally limits system management to the most rudimentary of capabilities.

The I3C intelligent switch family allows expansion of two initiator (upstream) ports to four, eight or more target ports at max speed with full protocol awareness and compliance. It also provides seamless translation between I3C and I2C devices allowing full plug and play compatibility of legacy devices onto the control plane network.

“Renesas was the pioneer of I3C hubs and expanders targeting the DDR5 DIMM market and we have always imagined great potential for this technology to proliferate across the entire platform,” said Rami Sethi, Vice President, Infrastructure Mixed Signal Division at Renesas. “We are thrilled to have worked with Intel to realize that vision with the introduction of our new I3C intelligent switch family. These devices empower our customers and partners to bring advanced platform management capabilities to every subsystem within the rack.”  

“We are pleased at the strong collaboration between Renesas and Intel in defining an essential circuit solution for the expanding use cases of MIPI I3C Basic applications,” said Vik Tymchenko, VP and GM Platform Hardware Engineering Division at Intel. “Products like the I3C intelligent switch family help solve the fundamental limitations of MIPI I3C interface implementations in data center hardware. With an I3C switch we can increase capacitance and devices supported by an I3C network.”

The I3C intelligent switch family complements Renesas solutions such as the DDR5 I3C expanders, registered clock drivers (RCDs), power management ICs (PMICs), serial presence detect (SPD) hubs, temperature sensors and data buffers.

Renesas is offering two versions of the I3C intelligent switch device, one with two upstream ports and four downstream ports and another with two upstream ports and eight downstream ports. The new devices are sampling to select customers now and are expected to be widely available in the first quarter of 2023.

www.renesas.com/i3c.

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