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COBO selects connector for upcoming standard, paving path to multi-sourced on-board optics

Los Angeles, California, March 20, 2017: The Consortium for On-Board Optics (COBO) today announced it has chosen the electrical connector for its upcoming standard which defines the key component for mounting on-board optical modules to printed circuit boards (PCBs) – significantly progressing the development of what will be the first truly multi-sourced on-board optics modules.

The connector selection is the outcome of months of collaborative industry effort which has resulted in the adoption of a combination of a TE Connectivity proposal and a Samtec proposal. The selection includes TE Connectivity’s connector proposal for the high-speed connection, where 50Gbps per lane electrical signals pass between the PCB and the module, and Samtec’s connector proposal for the low-speed connection, bringing DC power, control and management interface to the module. With input from COBO members, the combination will ultimately advance to a final socketed form factor for on-board optics.

The selection of these connector proposals by the Data Center Networking (DCN) working group within COBO – which will mark its second anniversary at OFC 2017 – is a huge step forward for the optics industry. The DCN working group has been focusing on lowering deployment costs, helping to avoid vendor lock-in and growing the optics market, while developing an 8-lane wide and a 16-lane wide connector to enable modules to support 400G to 2x 400G modules, respectively. Investigation is underway to consider modules that can support 1.6T using the 16-lane wide connector. Following the selection of the connector, the DCN working group is now refining the dimensions of the optical module to permit detailed mechanical design and electrical evaluation to enable module integrators to begin the development and testing of prototypes.

“This is a significant achievement which is the culmination of months of joint effort that allows our work to move forward and provides a stellar example of industry collaboration,” said Jeffery J. Maki, Vice President of COBO and Chairman of the DCN working group. “As a result of the selection of an electrical connector specification, system companies and module integrators will be able to develop solutions based on on-board optics to satisfy their end-customers’ requirements.” 

Since it was launched in 2015 with assistance from Microsoft, COBO has grown to include more than 60 members and has launched a new working group. The Coherent working group, chaired by Hugues Tournier, of Ciena, was initiated to address the market for coherent optical technology that is typically used in metro and long-haul optical networks. This working group plans to re-use the connector specification adopted by the DCN working group with a focus on higher thermal performance. The two groups run in parallel.

“COBO members have made significant progress since our launch two years ago,” said Brad Booth, COBO President and Microsoft Principal Architect. “The selection of the connector is a major step forward that resulted from inputs on electrical performance, thermal modeling and PCB design considerations. COBO is a truly unique organization within the optics industry in that we are defining a module which can carry us through more than one generation of speed while enabling the industry to prepare for the inevitable progression of optics inside the box.”

Further insight into COBO’s activities will be revealed during this week’s OFC Conference, in Los Angeles, where COBO will host a panel on the challenges, discoveries and what is next for on-board optics on Wednesday, March 22 at 10.15am in Expo Theater II. Speakers will include: 

·         Robert Blum, Director of Strategic Marketing and Business Development at Intel;

·         Ed Frlan, Senior System Architect at Semtech;

·         Jignesh Shah, Sr. Product Architect at Samtec;

·         Hugues Tournier, Senior Manager, Power and Signal Integrity, at Ciena;

·         Nathan Tracy, Technologist at TE Connectivity; and

·         Brad Booth, President of COBO.

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