Frequent readers of the Test Cafe blog know that I’ve added a recent focus on 5G characterization and test systems. Why? It’s simple. Test Cafe discusses instrument architectures, particularly modular instrument architectures, and 5G presents a key opportunity for modular instrumentation.
Due to 5G’s greater bandwidth and massive number of channels, I made an unequivocal prediction for vendors: if you don’t have a modular solution, you won’t be playing a significant role in 5G. Since that time, National Instruments and Keysight Technologies have introduced some exciting solutions in the 5G mmWave space, all based on modular instruments. Several weeks ago I described the internals of an NI system used by Nokia to create a 2×2 MIMO mmWave 5G prototype system, operating at 73 GHz. Now I’d like to take a look at the Keysight 5G channel sounding system, which combines elements of AXIe, PXI, and traditional instruments.
To read my analysis, go here.
Earlier this year, the AXIe Consortium added new capabilities to the AXIe Base Specification. If you are unfamiliar with AXIe, it is a modular instrument standard best described as the “big brother to PXI.” Like PXI, it hosts pluggable instrument and controller modules into a chassis, using PCIe (PCI Express) as a high-speed data fabric. However, the modules are larger than PXI and typically placed horizontally in a chassis. These larger modules allow power dissipation up to 200 watts/slot, suitable for high-speed data converters and digital test. You can read my recent AXIe tutorial here.
While AXIe consists of multiple standards numbered AXIe-n, where n represents a certain layer in the specification hierarchy, most references to AXIe assume AXIe-1, the Base Architecture specification. You can see the list of all specifications on the AXIe Consortium specification page.
So what did the AXIe Consortium change in the AXIe-1 specification? There are two substantial changes to the spec. First, it allowed expansion of the PCIe fabric from 4 lanes to 16 lanes, quadrupling data bandwidth. This capability is known as “Wide PCI Express.” Second, it made provisions for lower cost LAN-based modules.
You can read more details, and the significance of these enhancements, at my complete article here.
A recent Friday morning found me at Keysight Technologies headquarters in Santa Rosa, California. Keysight, for those who somehow escaped this news, was the electronic test arm of Agilent Technologies, spun off as an independent company late last year. Agilent itself was a spin off of Hewlett-Packard Company in 1999.
My objective of the day was to catch up on the latest modular (AXIe and PXI) instrument happenings from Keysight, with a particular focus on 5G. I still plan to cover the Keysight 5G channel sounding system in a future column, but not today. A chance encounter with Keysight CEO Ron Nersesian changed the focus of this column to Keysight’s modular strategy.
My question to Ron was simply this: I’ve seen Keysight state that it’s goal is to eventually become the leader in modular instrumentation. Can you confirm? And if so, how do you plan to do so?
To read his response, read my entire column here.