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CONTEST Open Source Transceiver Design Released

UCL/Cambridge collaboration makes open source design available to promote further work in low power integrated transceivers.

Power consumption of networking equipment is under increasing scrutiny, particularly as network end points are moving on-chip in the latest processors.  Although ultra-low energy silicon photonic components and have been demonstrated, these front-end circuits only consume a small proportion of total serial transceiver power.  Hence, major reductions in optical transceiver power can only be obtained with attention to the physical layer circuits and protocols.  In addition, major changes to transceiver protocols are required for power gating and to take advantage of future optical switching systems.

We announce the release of the CONfigurable Transceiver Energy uSage Toolkit (CONTEST), an open source transceiver physical layer design with full simulation, synthesis power estimation and optimisation support.  CONTEST, created in collaboration between Dr Philip Watts (pictured) of UCL's Optical Network Group and Andrew Moore's group at the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory, will promote continued work towards the goal of low power transceivers.  It will allow other researchers to extend the transceiver models and also reproduce our power results thereby permitting meaningful comparison.

More information about CONTEST and links to the code repository can be found here:  
http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/research/srg/netos/greenict/projects/contest/

Amongst results obtained using CONTEST so far:
•    Coding power is actually higher for idle signals than for data in the popular 8B10B code [1]
•    More than 50% of transceiver power is in serialisation and deserialisation (SERDES) [2]
•    Multiple wavelengths or PAM can be more energy efficient than single serial channels [3]

[1] Y.Audzevich, P.M.Watts, S. Kilmurray, A.W.Moore, ‘Efficient Photonic Coding: a Considered Revision’, GreenNets (SIGCOM Workshop), Toronto, August 2011
[2] Y. Audzevich, P. M. Watts, A. West, A. Mujumdar, S. W. Moore, and A. W. Moore, "Power Optimized Transceivers for Future Switched Networks," submitted to IEEE Trans. VLSI (2013)
[3] Y. Audzevich, P. M. Watts, A.West, A. Mujumdar, J. Crowcroft, A.W. Moore, "Low Power Optical Transceivers for Switched Interconnect Networks" (Invited), Int. Conf. on Advanced Technologies for Communications (ATC), Hochiminh City, Vietnam, October 2013