“Teamwork makes the dream work,” may be cliché, but in the case of the technology partnership that developed between Oxide Computer and Samtec, it applies. In an Oxide and Friends podcast , Bryan Cantrill, Co-founder and CTO of Oxide Computer Company, sums the experience up this way: “a perfect partnership, a model partnership—innovating together.” This is the story of designing the Oxide Rack.
But what does it mean to be a great partner in tech, and how did Samtec and Oxide Computer create such a compelling partnership? A new case study in the Samtec Technical Library tells the story from concept, to design, to troubleshooting.
Identifying the Challenges
By way of background, Oxide was developing a switch chassis and realized the signal integrity from the switching silicon to the front panel QSFP was going to be a real challenge. Their concern was how to push the ASIC as far back in the chassis as they can, with the cables in the back as short as possible, while still having fans at the back. To complicate this, the boards had to be at a certain height to accommodate those fans. So how could Oxide design this chassis to avoid an “enormous slab of PCB”?
The design team started looking at what was available and discovered the Samtec Flyover® cable system, which routes signals using ultra-low skew twinax cable instead of PCB traces (see Figure). This would allow Oxide to use a set of connectors and cabling from a QSFP to the ASIC instead of through a PCB trace.
“I could go further with the cables because they have better performance than a PCB, but, more importantly, I could basically split the PCB into two and have one board accommodate the fans in the back and at a lower height while the other board could be placed centered vertically in the front. This would allow us to have QSFP ports on both sides of the board.” says Arjen Roodselaar, Engineer at Oxide. “We then used Flyover cable to go back to the main board and land near the ASIC to connect it. There was a specific example on the Samtec website that was exactly what we wanted.”
The Oxide team quickly contacted Samtec, expecting to be engaged in lengthy discussions and NDAs. Instead, Samtec immediately shipped a sample Flyover cable. What the Oxide team hadn’t been aware of was Samtec’s Sudden Service® program, which includes next-day free samples.
Check out the full text of the case study to read the entire story, including thermal concerns, cabling the backplane, and ultimately the manufacturing troubleshooting involved in designing the Oxide Rack.
Samtec Flyover Product Information.
Why Use Flyover Cables? Samtec White Paper.