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2018

In April 2017, one year ago to date, Keysight announced the closing of the acquisition of Ixia. It was positioned as a perfect complement for testing and monitoring next generation networking technologies. As an engineer and marketer for Keysight’s data center and infrastructure solutions, no one is happier than me (well, besides our customers) in this integration. Let me explain why.


Keysight is a recognized leader worldwide in the test & measurement industry for its Physical Layer 1 test solutions. Ixia tests what are typically referred to as the Networking Protocols (Layers 2/3) and what is typically called the Application Layers (4-7). Before I go into more details, this might be a good time for a quick review of the Open System Interconnect (OSI) and Transmission Control Protocol (TCP)/Internet Protocol (IP) models. They are the two most widely used models for communication networks, let’s do a quick review of them.

OSI and TCP/IP models

OSI and TCP/IP Models

 

As you can see, the OSI model is comprised of seven layers, whereas the TCP/IP model has four. In simple terms, regardless of the model data sent to the network flows from the top Application layer downward through each layer. Since I mentioned earlier that Keysight’s expertise is in Physical Layer 1 test, I’ll use the OSI model to explain a very simple example of how data flows through the network.


For example, when you request to browse a web page from your computer, data is sent to the Application Layer of the network. It is then passed downward through the layers, with each one performing a specific function and encapsulating the data before passing it on to the next layer. Physical Layer 1 is aptly named since it manages the point-to-point connection and physically transmits it over the network to its intended destination. There are several hardware devices that operate at Layer 1, but the most influential and the most expensive, is the transceiver.


Keysight provides the hardware and software solutions to test transceiver performance and compliance to industry standards, ensuring the very heart of every network. IHS Markit forecasts that the number of devices connected to the Internet will reach 125 billion by 2030. That is a big number, each making their demands on those transceivers. Can you imagine how many requests will be sent to and from the network with that many devices? As I wrote about in my blog last week, 400GE Innovations at OFC 2018 – Enabling 5G and IoT, we work closely with industry innovators to help them bring to market the next generation of transceivers needed to support these network demands.


Now that you understand what part of the network that Keysight tests, it is time to explain the importance of Ixia’s contribution. Ixia provides network test solutions for all the other network layers from 2-7, including validating Software Defined Networking (SDN), and Network Function Virtualization (NFV) functionality and traffic loading. Each of these topics alone are worthy of a much more detailed explanation in a future blog article, but I’ll give you a short story here.

 

Remember all the billions of devices I mentioned above that will connect to the network? Well, this is really pushing the limits of existing network infrastructures that have remained virtually unchanged in the last several years. Therefore, enterprises and service providers need to find new ways to design and operate their networks and are shifting to virtualized networks using SDN and NFV. Once they have made that shift, they need to make sure that data flows through their virtualized networks as they designed them to, and that they can withstand the kind of traffic that billions of devices will generate. This is what Ixia’s network test solutions are designed to do.


Together Keysight and Ixia offer the widest array of test solutions across all network layers, from Physical Layer 1 test to full network test of Layers 2-7 including SDN/NFV validation and traffic loading. It is a powerful combination to ensure actual data center infrastructure works as promised.

 

Learn more about Keysight’s transceiver test solutions here and Ixia’s network test solutions here.

Emerging technologies such as 5G, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), Augmented Reality(AR)/(VR) and autonomous vehicles are driving big data and traffic explosion beyond 100 Gigabit Ethernet (GE) speeds in data centers. A key theme at the Optical Networking and Communication Conference & Exhibition (OFC) 2018, the largest global conference and exposition in optical communications and networking, that I attended last month in San Diego was around next-gen transceiver development to support these new services and the ever-increasing demand for network bandwidth.

100G paves the way for 400G in the data center
As 100G technology reaches maturity in 2018, innovations such as single-lambda 100G will continue to drive down costs of next generation 100GE links, as well as enable faster transition to 400GE in the data center. Single-lambda 100G uses four-level pulse amplitude modulation (PAM4) to transmit 100G over a single fiber, as opposed to four lanes running at 25Gbps. Since single-lambda 100G requires only a single set of optical components per module, the costs of 100GE connectivity are significantly reduced and next generation 400GE becomes viable.

400GE industry-first demonstrations at OFC 2018
At OFC each year the industry has a close eye on who is innovating at the fastest pace. By working closely with the market makers, we know what the industry needs to meet market timing and ramp requirements for optical components, modules and systems. Test solutions are not only instrumental to enabling new technologies, but often the only way for our customers to showcase their new product introductions.

At this year’s show, Keysight’s solutions were an integral part of more than twenty customer demonstrations including many 400GE industry firsts, such as new 100G single-lambda modules from Accelink Technologies and Applied Optoelectronics, 400 Gbps transceivers from Innolight, as well as 400 Gbps transceiver chipsets from MaxLinear.

 

At the Ethernet Alliance (EA) booth, Keysight Ixia’s K400 QSFP-DD-400GE load module sent and received live, full line rate, 400GE traffic to and from Juniper 400G transport technology using LR8 QSFP-DD optics provided by Finisar and Source Photonics. This was the first public demonstration of 400GE traffic over QSFP-DD optics, which will help to accelerate the development of new IEEE 802.3bs-compliant 400GE network equipment and systems. The K400 load module also won the 2018 Lightwave Innovation Review award for the category of Field Test Equipment.

 

A lot has changed in the span of one year since OFC 2017, where 100G and its production ramp were all the focus, and 400G seemed in the distant future. With PAM4 enabling single lambda to cost-effectively carry 100Gb/s of data, 400Gbps in the data #center is right around the corner and production of 400G optical modules is expected to start later this year.

 

It was amazing to see first-hand how Keysight’s optical test solutions have accelerated and helped bring to life so many new 400GE innovations that will enable exciting new services such as 5G and IoT.  Find out more about our K400 load module here and our 400GE transceiver test solutions here.

Since 3GPP announced the first set of 5G standards in December 2017, we’ve seen an explosion of high-profile 5G demonstrations – notably Verizon’s showcase of 5G low latency capability at the Super Bowl LII, and following that, 5G’s impressive and varied use case in real-world applications at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics.

 

Since the 3GPP 5G specifications announcement, we’ve also seen a number of announcements at CES 2018 in January and MWC 2018 in February where leading mobile network operators such as AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon announced firm timetables for commercial 5G rollouts in the United States over the next 18 months.

The 5G wave is rising fast, and as a result of rapid developments in this space, experts are now targeting for 5G products to debut in the market in 2019, a year ahead of the prediction at MWC 2017.

 

How 5G Ready Are We?

Despite the impressive developments and demonstrations to date from carriers and mobile device manufacturers, there are still gaps as the 5G standards process isn’t complete. While the first set of 5G standards included specifications for tower-to-device connection, specifications for network services—that will enable IoT, automated driving, and augmented reality (AR), to name just a few—have yet to be finalized. Current projections for the second set of 5G standards by 3GPP point to a summer (June) release date.

 

Why We Shouldn’t Be Rushing Summer

The current 5G momentum is certainly leading to mounting pressure to rush the standards process. Rushing the 5G standards would be a huge blunder as seen from the hurried standards process for 3G and 4G, that had resulted in timing issues, interoperability issues, and all sorts of complexities and inefficiencies. Slowing down and taking our time to create a more robust standard will ultimately result in products that truly deliver a transformative experience for consumers.


Bridging the Standards Gap Between Now and Summer

Fortunately, slowing down the standards process doesn’t have to inhibit 5G development. While we look forward to a robust set of network services standards in the summer, carriers and manufacturers can use testing to bridge the gap. Testing can go a long way in simulating realistic test environments, and fortunately for us, the standards agreed to in December established the reuse of existing 4G infrastructure. Focus would then be on areas targeting large bandwidth and low latency applications. Having said that, there are known challenges to creating this ideal, realistic test environment, which would impact the accuracy and reliability of testing.

 

Over the air (OTA) conditions pose a major problem due to the very short range of frequencies that 5G promises to leverage, that are also extremely susceptible to line-of-sight issues as objects just a few inches across can cause interference. 5G developers require end-to-end testing expertise as they need to set up a testing chamber with laboratory conditions, and replicating real-world conditions by distorting signals and introducing channel model effects. In addition to laboratory conditions, developers can also carry out testing in the field. Contrary to the myth that 5G requires mmWave bands, most early deployments in Asia run on sub-6 GHz bands which are in ample supply in other global markets.


Helping You Carry 5G Development Forward

At Keysight, we’re aggressively rolling out 5G NR ready products and applications—including several industry-firsts showcased at the MWC 2018—to help developers carry out accurate, reliable testing, and move forward quickly in 5G development. This will allow the 5G momentum that has been built up over the past several months to continue while letting the standards process play out by summer.

 

I leave you now with a couple of free 5G resources you will find useful. More to come towards summer.

Yes, please keep reading…  Keysight, a leader in wireless technologies offers complete solutions for technologies such as 5G test beds, over the air (OTA) and many other 5G wireless related technologies. However, Keysight is also looking forward to another revolution that is occurring on the high-speed digital side of the business as PCI Express or PCIe and DDR move their 5th generations.


Why is this Gen5 revolution happening? The same story that drives the need for 5G mobile, also drives the need for much faster intra-data center interconnect or intra-DCI (connections inside the data center), and inside of our servers. Virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR), autonomous cars, and high-definition (HD) streaming continue to push the need for more data, faster. Consumers no longer tolerate even the smallest delay, especially in VR/AR and autonomous driving. The end result is that new technologies are moving forward quickly in the data center.


The PCIe Gen5 Wave

Ever heard of Cache coherent interconnect for accelerators (CCIX), GenZ, NVLink or OpenCAPI? If you haven’t, you soon will. These wave of technologies is currently pushing the incumbent PCIe to faster speeds. PCIe Gen4 is just becoming mainstream, but has limited bandwidth, given the needs of today’s technologies at only 16 Gbps. This is a far cry from today’s IEEE-led interconnect technologies that are now looking to data rates well above 100 Gbps. As a result, new technologies have appeared to speed up the interconnect space. These buses look to specialize in areas where PCIe is not as customized. For example, GenZ is targeting memory-to-CPU connections and moving to speeds above 30 Gbps. Another technology, NVLink is being developed to connect GPUs to GPUs. CCIX looks to replace PCIe at 25 Gbps.


This is where this whole revolution gets interesting. PCIe took over 5 years to develop the Gen4 technology at 16 Gbps, but rather than be satisfied with those speeds, it has announced PCIe Gen5 with speeds of 32 Gbps. So, in a matter of a year, we have seen server speeds go from 16 Gbps to over 30 Gbps, and the technologies are looking to PAM-4 to push speeds above 50 Gbps. We have also moved from having one dominant technology to having competition in the technology space, which can lead to even further innovation.


Of course, the revolution does not happen without challenges. For PCIe Gen4, the standard eye height was specified at a mere 16 mV at the end of the channel (this is really small), even with all channel effects removed and equalization applied. Going to 32 Gbps does not help that problem, and for Gen5, the eye height drops to a miniscule 8 mV. Essentially, high-speed digital technologies are moving to a closed eye. Keysight has numerous tools to help test all these standards.


The Rise of DDR5

The other revolution is occurring on the memory side with DDR. For the last number of years, there has been discussion of a memory wall. What is a memory wall? The theory of the memory wall is that at some point, the dynamic random-access memory (DRAM) would be unable to keep up with the PC power, and a new memory technology would need to be developed. We now have moved into 2018, and yet DRAM remains viable and the “memory wall” has not happened – hence, the introduction of the new DDR5 technology. DDR5 represents the possibility of going beyond 5 GT/s for the first time. It also introduces a new challenge as DDR5 developers will need to test both the transmitter and the receiver.  Previous DDR technologies only required transmitter testing.


Here are a couple of questions to consider: Why the need for a new DRAM technology (DDR5) when other, “better” technologies such as 3D silicon are coming to revolutionize the memory market? Does this mean there is no memory wall? First, new technologies are being developed on a continual basis for memory. If a new technology goes mainstream, it can become a billion-dollar business almost overnight.  We see announcements around 3D silicon, magnetic memory, hybrid memory cube, and other high bandwidth memories all the time. The problem is that shipping them in volume is still too expensive for what consumers are willing to pay. Until costs get comparable to DRAM, DRAM will remain king and the industry continues to push DRAM further and further. As for the memory wall, it still absolutely will happen, it is just a matter of when. Maybe it is after DDR6, or maybe we will get to DDR10, but at some point, the memory industry will have to find a new technology to get to ultra-fast speeds. It will be interesting to watch.


Keeping Watch

I look back at 2010-2012 as great technology years, as Universal Serial Bus (USB) went to USB 3.0, PCI Express went to Gen3 and DDR began movement into DDR3. The result was much excitement for high-speed digital technologies and significant growth in the industry, especially coming out of the economic downturn. When you look at the technologies that are coming, you see a similar pattern happening from 2018-2020. It is a great time to watch as a new revolution is occurring, the Gen5 revolution – and not just in wireless.


In the meantime, watch our industry experts discuss the latest updates on PCI Express 5.0 and DDR5, as part of our DesignCon 2018 Keysight Education Forum (KEF) offers. I’m also interested to hear from you, technology watchers, on the Gen5 revolution. Feel free to comment below.

The future of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) starts with children today. Plain and simple. Many studies have detailed the need to build interest in STEM fields early in childhood education to ensure continued interest through college and beyond into careers. While school systems around the world have related classwork, it is important for children to see real practitioners, particularly female, from STEM fields and have tangible engagement in these areas to build their interest. This is where industry leaders can help!

 

In this post I’d like to highlight why this is important work in which more industry players need to participate, and share the multi-faceted win for students, schools, employees and our future!

 

Hands-on program drives early STEM engagement

Keysight After School (KAS) is a company-funded program that provides a STEM engagement experience to school children. It features 23 different hands-on life, physical and earth-science experiments designed as complete "programs-in-a-box" that are delivered by Keysight employee volunteers working with local school communities. From single-kit experiments tied to in-class curriculum, to multi-week engagements and even special after-school focused sessions, we can adapt the kits and customize the engagement for students. Through the program, Keysight engages upwards of 10,000 children worldwide each year, while offering our employees the opportunity to volunteer in their community and help drive the future of their fields.

 

Engaging the future

Recently, I partnered with my local school district in Loveland, Colorado, to support a full-day STEM engagement for students in grades 3-8 using the KAS program materials. It was a teacher work day, which meant the kids had the day off. Instead of staying home and likely watching TV or playing video games, the school district gave students the opportunity to sign up for a full-day STEM program. This was a unique approach to implementing the KAS kits and I was excited to be a part of a more immersive student experience.

 

Working with assigned substitute teachers from the district, we started by determining which STEM topics the kids were currently studying, and then selected two KAS kits that best aligned with both curriculum and age group. From there, the teachers designed a morning curriculum for the students to learn the basic concepts of their respective STEM topic. The full-day event culminated in an afternoon hands-on experiment with Keysight volunteers armed with KAS experiment kits.

 

  • For the group of third, fourth, and fifth graders, we selected electricity and magnetism as the target topic. During the morning sessions, teachers introduced the concepts of magnets, compasses, and electricity. Using the “Invisible Forces” KAS kit, students did hands-on experiments with not only magnets but also the magnetic field induced by the flow of electricity through a wire. The experience culminated with students building a working electric motor so they could see first-hand the practical application of the invisible forces of electricity and magnetism at work.

 

  • For sixth, seventh, and eighth graders, we selected the principles of hydraulics as the study topic. The KAS kit we paired with this subject was the “Hydro Lift” kit, in which students built their own working hydraulic lift and learned how the transfer of energy can be used to increase force.

 

After completing their experiments, students took their finished projects home with them – furthering the STEM engagement opportunity as the children share their projects with family, friends, and teachers. In total, for this event alone, we engaged 131 students across 5 schools with 28 Keysight employee volunteers. It was a great feeling to see the excitement in the eyes of the students as they learned about important scientific concepts and how engineers use them in practical everyday ways to build devices and machines they are already familiar with.

 

A Fun and Rewarding Experience for All!

The hands-on experience and the very visible volunteer STEM practitioners are what truly made the connection with the students. As one of the Keysight volunteers offered:

 

"The kids were engaged, asked good questions and answered our questions well too! Everyone got their motors to work, and they were fascinated by the Keysight oscilloscope display we brought with us. They all brought their motors over to the oscilloscopes for 'testing'. One student was so enthralled by the process, that he built two motors to test!"

 

In turn, the school district’s STEM coordinator with whom I worked said:

 

"At every camp I visited, I saw students who were actively engaged in learning. I know that this was an experience that they will remember for quite some time. I appreciate your commitment not only to taking the time from your busy schedules to sit down with our students and work through the kits, but also your willingness to share your love of engineering and a little bit about what you do and how you got into your field."

 

While this was just one of many ways to take advantage of the KAS kits, the unique approach and engagement model is worth noting for others to consider. The engagement was a true multi-faceted win. Students had the chance to learn STEM concepts, teachers were provided a new way to support their curriculum, Keysight employees were able to give back to the community, and Keysight as a company had a part in developing the next generation of engineers and scientists! As the school district’s STEM coordinator noted, “Hopefully, some seeds were planted with students that will lead to their becoming engineers one day!

When Thomas J. Watson, Jr., the former president of IBM said in a 1973 lecture that “good design is good business,” he was acknowledging the impact design had made on IBM’s fortunes during the 1950s and 60s. In those decades, Watson Jr. had overseen the company’s transition from making punch-card systems to new electronic computers. It was a big shift on multiple levels. He also put in place an overarching ‘design thinking’ program which spanned everything from IBM’s products, to its buildings, marketing and logos.

 

Those changes formed the foundation of IBM’s future in the computer market, eventually leading to the popular phrase customers would utter, "You’ll never get fired for buying IBM." Becoming a trusted brand has always required building products with thoughtful, integrated features and high reliability. Rapid hardware development, spiral design cycles, and the introduction of continuous software services forever extend the relationship between product developer and product user. End-of-life electronic components, processor and memory upgrades, new interfaces and features, and bug fixes continue the be part of the development process long after the design is complete, the prototype has been validated, and the device has been produced.

 

Trusted brands deliver products with performance, reliability, and safety that users demand. Getting there requires in-depth testing and benchmarking in the widest possible range of environments and use cases. But another key element has emerged in the product development lifecycle – the need to integrate services as part of the product offering. The more features and uses your product has, the more customers benefit from deeper interactions beyond the sale. Learning, exploring, and using are all more engrained with integrated offerings.

 

Knowing when a microsecond matters

We are fortunate to support a lot of very important and exciting customer product developments. One area, automotive, is currently undergoing a renaissance: integrating more eMobility, more autonomy, more connectedness, and of course more electronics. There is also a lot at stake so developers need to make sure measurements are very precise.
Cars are integrating autonomous driving algorithms that rely on inputs from sensors: optical imagers, LIDAR (light detection and ranging) and radar systems, to name a few. For new automotive millimeter wave (mmWave) radars operating at 77 GHz, testing requires a precise set-up so we had to develop a complete service offering – measurement equipment, chamber guidance, special data capture software, and high precision calibration. You will see why when you see the basic test steps:

 

  1. Start with an automotive radar target simulator consisting of an anechoic chamber, signal analyzer, power meter, and target object
  2. Create a Simulink model of an automotive radar simulator
  3. Run uncertainty analysis on all sub-elements to generate test procedures and limits
  4. Load procedures into the test system
  5. Run diagnostic measurements to verify system operation
  6. Preform calibration on the test equipment
  7. Run the test

 

Throughout this collection, precision counts so the equipment alone was not enough. It needed precise tuning. We are looking for the signal, but we are also looking at the noise, interference, temperature variation, environmental variation – they all make a difference in the result. And why? Because seconds can count, milliseconds can count, and in this case, microseconds can count a lot.

 

Putting it in perspective: What’s an order of magnitude between friends?

Let’s take our setup above and pretend that we are simulating the position, or range, of a car driving in front of us. Uncertainty in time delay due to skipping the tuning steps, for instance, can cause a bias in the recorded results. The time delay measurement is very sensitive. Radars send out pulses and once they encounter something solid, some of the signal bounces back. The more solid the object, the larger the reflected signal. Range is determined by measuring the pulse delay.

 

If, in our example, the car in front of us is 100 meters away, and the setup has as small as 1 microsecond of uncertainty, that translates into a potential 30-meter error in estimating its real range. Not good.

 

Build a business that solves problems and helps your customers win

Whether your innovation is in automotive technology, 5G, IoT, cloud, aerospace and defense, or any other modern market, the move to products integrated with services is part of your world. It is necessary for a better customer experience. Developers expect, and need, complete solutions that solve a problem. The trusted brands of tomorrow will be the ones who successfully help their customers win in the market. We intend to be at the head of that line so that customers may someday utter: “You’ll never get fired for buying Keysight. Those guys solve problems.”

 

Find out more about how we’ve helped enterprises solve their design problems here.

Occasionally, I take Uber rides and they are almost always a guarantee for fascinating conversation, allowing me insights into very different industries and topics, yet always discovering connections to the industry I work in. Just recently, I took a ride back home after dropping off my car for the 80,000 miles service appointment at my local dealer.


The driver was in the knitting industry, working at a local yarn store in town. We started talking about the tremendous transformation in the yarn and knitting industry with trends like online retail, luxury fabrics and community building. Especially, the latter point reminded me about commonalities with our test and measurement business and the Keysight Leadership Model. Really? You might think – how can something as low tech as knitting have anything in common with high tech topics such as 5G wireless technology or Industry 4.0?


Before I get there, let me start by saying that I remember knitting from my grandmother in Germany – after World War II. Knitting was one of the cheapest possible ways to build a durable sweater or socks for the most utilitarian fashion, that we could afford in our family. Even our home decorations were done by her amazing crochet skills. Today, knitting sometimes is an expensive hobby, with exotic fabrics, a high-end luxury fashion trend or other times an artsy Etsy business with sales at a premium price.


Now, knitting and Keysight connect on two different levels:

  1. Deep Customer Relationships
    • Keysight Technologies just introduced the Keysight Leadership Model (KLM). Besides fundamentals such as capital allocations, profitable growth, operational discipline and financial management, at the very core of the model resides our customers’ success. This is achieved by nurturing deep relationships, truly understanding their problems and delivering leading edge solutions through speed and agility. This is the cornerstone of everything that we do.
    • As recently demonstrated at Mobile World Congress and described by our CMO, Marie Hattar, we illustrated some of those deep relationships with Qualcomm, Samsung, Datang Mobile among other leading players in the industry.
    • Our local yarn store is applying the exact same principles: By closely listening to their customers, they found out that there is a true need for community building, stress relief, knitting groups and sharing, and making lives more comforting and connected. These knitting groups are now a cornerstone of the business even attended by customers who seek health benefits such as lowering heart rate and blood pressure.
  2. Industry 4.0
    • The textile industry among many other industries is going through the transformation of Industry 4.0, the interconnection of information technology and manufacturing processes. On March 6, 2018, at Investor Day, our Senior Vice President of the Ixia Solutions Group, Mark Pierpoint, mentioned that only 40% of industries have been digitized, which gives Keysight a huge growth opportunity for our products, solutions and services. Connecting and analyzing information technology resources, and delivering insights require improvement across traditionally disconnected manufacturing processes. This is where Keysight helps.
    • The introduction of new products and processes to enable the yarn industry to adopt Industry 4.0 to its customer base can benefit from Keysight platforms, such as Pathwave. Pathwave enables sharing of analysis and results as innovations take place in new processes all the way from the design phase through validation and manufacturing test.

 

I hope you find this Uber detour interesting. Please feel free to comment. In the meantime, I will dig out this light-yellow crochet table runner that my grandmother gifted me years ago. It perfectly brightens up my kitchen for the spring time.

crochet table runner