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Molex and TE Connectivity recently announced a Dual Source Alliance (DSA) agreement to produce the next generation of connectors and cable assemblies. This collaboration will focus on creating high-speed solutions that are interoperable and address the demanding requirements of high-performance applications.

Below you'll find a Q&A between ECN and Molex and TE Connectivity regarding this interesting and exciting announcement. 

Q: What caused the Dual Source Alliance (DSA) agreement between Molex and TE?

A: Market need: Customers need dual sourcing, accelerated timelines and more secure knowledge that technologies will meet new requirements.

Under the Dual Source Alliance (DSA) agreement, TE Connectivity and Molex will each produce a new generation of high-speed solutions for data communications applications. Several factors drove the decision to reach an agreement. For example, data centers are rapidly evolving to deliver higher density, higher speeds and richer virtualization models. High-performance, high-speed connectors and cable assemblies are needed to support system data requirements of new data storage, servers, switches, routers and other applications.

Q: Why is there a need for the collaboration?

A: Connectivity products must offer superior high-speed electrical performance requiring sophisticated connector and cable assembly designs with high-speed signaling, EMI containment and thermal efficiencies. 

Specifically, the agreement provides a framework for the development and support for a new generation of interoperable high-speed input/output (I/O) and backplane connectors, and cable assemblies for data communications applications. Additionally, Molex and TE can decide under the terms of the DSA to co-develop new technologies to support the growing number of high-speed applications required as data centers continue to evolve with hyperscale models and increased virtualization.

Q: What will the new connector and cable assembly products do for data communications applications?

A: Molex and TE Connectivity previously entered into second source agreements for the following products:

zSFP+ interconnects are backward-compatible to SFP/SFP+ products for fast system upgrades to 28 Gbps up to 40 Gbps.  zSFP+ can also be designed-in for 10-16 Gbps data rates to establish a progressive path to higher speeds.

zQSFP+ interconnects provide 2.5 times more throughput than traditional QSFP solutions with four lanes transferring data rates of 28 Gbps.  Backward compatibility with QSFP/QSFP+ interconnects provide a simple upgrade path to faster speeds.

microQSFP (µQSFP) interconnects solve the thermal/density challenge to enable a new approach to equipment design.  This 4x28G solution provides QSFP28 functionality in a smaller, generally SFP-sized form factor to offer 33 percent higher density than QSFP and significantly better thermal performance.

Nano-Pitch I/O interconnect system provides industry-leading port density, multi-protocol application support, and high-bandwidth 24 Gbps performance to redefine PCIe and SAS solutions.

CDFP connectors enable one of the highest port and bandwidth densities of any pluggable I/O on the market with 16 channels of up to 28 Gbps data rates that support a total bandwidth of 400 Gbps.

Sliver internal cabled interconnects address the overall trend towards internal cabling to optimize system performance and reduce cost, with a reliable connection solution offered in multiple configurations that can support applications up to 28 Gbps and beyond.

These existing products allow customers to provide cutting-edge communication devices. As data rates increase it becomes more critical to have fully tested products to ensure compatibility if you are going to use multiple sources and the DSA provides a framework for improved consistency at higher data rates. We expect at least some of the new products developed under the DSA will support data rates of 56 Gbps and 112 Gbps (the latter using PAM4), thus enabling a further round of innovation in the data communication industry.

Q: What new or cutting-edge technologies do these products employ?

A: Future products that fall under the DSA framework will be similar to those above supporting current data speeds of 28 Gbps, and future data speeds of 56 Gbps. While some technologies dovetail, each product features different specifications, limitations and strengths. It is important to note that the DSA goes beyond simply producing similar products. Both Molex and TE are firmly committed to increased creation, availability and competition of new interoperable high-speed solutions to our customers. By bringing stringently qualified new products, materials and solutions to market faster, we can help customers keep pace with technology—so they can be more competitive.

Q: What effect(s) will this development have on the broader connector industry?

A: As data continues to grow exponentially and the rate of that change also increases, the connector industry must accelerate innovation to keep pace. Development and adoption of any new technology comes with some risk. The DSA agreement minimizes risk for our customers through joint development and collaboration, and a commitment to product longevity.  Molex and TE will conduct cross-testing of select products and provide these test reports to customers. This will provide an assurance of product compatibility. Reducing customer qualification time can translate into cost savings and improve the efficiency of their systems and time to market with products including new technologies.

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