Express Yourself


PCI-SIG Israel: “Gen4” 16GT/s Live Wires and the Dead Sea

Well, we’re back from the PCI-SIG Developers Conference Israel 2015 and by now, between Scott and me we might make up one coherent person!  (I know, given the blog frequency lately, you probably thought Scott and I had been kidnapped by aliens.  I have no comment on that beyond “We’re back!“)  This was the third Israel DevCon and as always I was pleased with the fantastic turnout.  I mean, it’s a hardship going to Israel, but somehow we tough it out…


Oh wait, did I forget to mention that Tel Aviv is on the Mediterranean? 🙂

Unfortunately the weather was that gorgeous most of the time – that we were inside working.  Admittedly, most of the PCI-SIG presentations were from the US Devcon, but it’s always much more interesting and useful to hear and see the material presented than to just read the slides.  As usual it fell to me to try and wake up the early arrivals with PCI Express Basics & Background, as well as break the post-lunch lethargy with PCIe 3.1 Protocol.  Perhaps reinforcing my point about live presentations, one of the attendees commented (about the Basics) “I’ve seen you give this same presentation 2 or 3 times now, but I learn something new each time!”  On the second day I got to take off my PCI-SIG hat and put on my (metaphorical) Synopsys hat to talk about PCI Express Controller Design Challenges at 16GT/s.  In between sessions over breaks and mealtimes, we manned the booth.  Well, in truth, mostly our colleague Robert manned the booth as he got to show off our joint 16GT/s “Gen4” demo with Mellanox!  Meanwhile Scott and I practiced looking pretty and showed our “Gen4” controller demo to folks waiting to talk to Robert.  Yep, you read that right, Synopsys and Mellanox were both showing 16GT/s PCIe PHYs communicating with each other over some pretty nasty test channels!


Yeah, yeah, I know you can’t see much of the demo – I never claimed to be a photographer!  Scott did a little better, but it’s hard when you’re overrun with interested attendees – and I’m told it’s bad marketing to push your customers out of the way to take pictures.


To answer a few question I know folks will be asking:

  • Yes, it’s real silicon: Synopsys fabs test chips for each of the PHYs we design, and Mellanox rolled theirs into another chip they were producing anyway.  You might have remembered that Synopsys demonstrated a 16GT/s PCIe PHY standalone last June.
  • Yes, they’re two completely independent designs.  Both companies participate actively in the PCI-SIG and we’ve both been pretty open about what we’re doing, so it was a pretty obvious partnership opportunity as we both looked to demonstrate our individual PHYs at the DevCon.  (Mellanox in fact submitted their complete characterization as part of the PCIe 4.0 specification development – see their presentation for more details.)
  • No, of course we can’t claim compliance to PCIe 4.0 as it’s not final yet.  Naturally, the spec numbers are based in part on the characterization results of test silicon, so…

“Ok then, what’s the bit about the Dead Sea?”

Well, I was looking for a catchy blog title (as I always do) and if truth be told, I thought of the Dead Sea first – then worked in the Live Wires… All that because Scott and I did end up with a little free time (Shhh, don’t tell management!) and took a tour out to Masada and down to the Dead Sea.  Being the data geek that I am, of course I had to bring along my GPS – well, ok, so I logged the entire trip on my GPS.  For your amusement I present this:


Yep, that’s correct: 1281 feet *BELOW* sea level (some 400 meters for you metric folks).  I know, even I can’t come up with a way this relates to PCI Express, but I’m sorry – that’s just cool!  Especially for someone from Colorado who hangs out at around 6500 feet most of the time.  (Colorado’s unofficial motto is “Never trust anyone under 14,000 feet”)  I also have no excuse to work in any pictures from Masada – unless you leave a comment telling me of a way that connects to PCIe – so you’ll have to get those from me next time you see me in person.  Hey now, that I can connect to PCI-SIG  – make sure to mark June 23-24 on your calendars – at least the US folks and anyone else who can talk their management into a trip approval!

Well that’s it for now – I’ve got to go clean what’s either Dead Sea slime or some kind of alien excretion off my old tennis shoes.  Please do leave a comment with topic ideas so we can blog more often, and if you aren’t already, then click here to subscribe to ExpressYourself – quick before the aliens come back!


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