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Samtec FireFly multi-Gbps interconnect system lets you choose between photons (100M) and electrons (28Gbps/channel)

Xilinx Employee
Xilinx Employee
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With a few extra minutes to stroll around the OFC 2014 show floor this week, I chanced upon the Samtec booth where I saw the company’s FireFly multi-Gbps interconnect system. I previously wrote about this high-speed Samtec interconnect system in a blog about the Pentek Flexor Open VPX FMC carrier. (See “Pentek OpenVPX board points the way to multi-Gbps optical backplanes using VITA 66.4 optical interconnect.”) Pentek uses two 12-channel, 14Gbps/channel Samtec optical FireFly modules on that board—one 12-channel transmit module and one 12-channel receive module. However, the FireFly products are so new that they only existed as unscaled drawings on the Samtec site, so I didn’t have a good sense for their size. Here at OFC, Samtec had some FireFly modules to touch in their booth, so here’s a photo of the Samtec FireFly ECUO Active Optical Micro Flyover Cable Assembly taken on the show floor at OFC 2014:



 Samtec FireFly ECUO Optical Assembly.jpg



It’s hard to get a sense of scale from this photo, but these things are really, really tiny. (I had to use the macro setting on my camera for this shot.) That heatsink assembly has about the same form factor as the last joint of my little finger. The FireFly module board footprint is also tiny. You can see the 12-fiber optical ribbon cable exiting the heat-sink assembly to the left. (In this photo, I’ve pulled the FireFly module back out of the socket to better see the teeny, tiny edge-connector interconnect on the FireFly assembly.)


The optical FireFly modules are reportedly good to 14Gbps, so they are excellent interconnect alternatives for high-speed SerDes ports like the 13.1Gbps GTH and 12.5Gbps GTX transceivers on Xilinx 7 series All Programmable devices.


But what if you need to go faster? After all, there are 16.3Gbps GTH transceivers on the new Xilinx Kintex UltraScale FPGAs (see “Kintex UltraScale 16.3Gbps SerDes ports drive 8-inch backplane with no errors in demo at OFC 2014”) and 32.75Gbps GTY transceivers on Virtex UltraScale devices, not to mention the 28.05Gbps GTZ transceivers on the Virtex-7 H580T and H870T 3D FPGAs.


It turns out that the Samtec FireFly system has these higher speeds covered too, with a compatible ribbon coax cable. Here’s photo showing the FireFly ECUE 38 AWG Copper Micro Cable Assembly side by side with the FireFly ECUO optical assembly:



 Samtec FireFly ECUO Optical and ECUE Ribbon Coax Assemblies.jpg



The first thing to note is that both assemblies plug into the same connector, so you can make the decision between them after the fact. This flyover ribbon coax is good to at least 28Gbps over many inches, which gives you a great system for getting high-speed serial signals from one board to another inside of a system design.


The last question might be “Can I use this interconnect system over external links?” The short answer is “Yes.” The long, 1000-word answer appears in this photo, also from the OFC 2014 show floor, which shows two FireFly optical modules talking over 100 meters of fiber. These particular FireFly modules are upgraded from 14Gbps to 28Gbps. The 28Gbps optical FireFly modules are scheduled go into production in mid-2015 with proto builds late this year.



 Samtec FireFly Optical Modules Communicating over 100 Meters of Fiber.jpg