First intelligent switch family for next generation server and communications systems

07-06-2022 | Renesas | New Technologies

Renesas Electronics Corporation has unveiled the industry's first I3C intelligent switch devices aimed at next-generation server motherboards and other infrastructure equipment. The new chips greatly enhance scalability and reliability while decreasing the complexity of high-performance system designs. They provide I3C control plane networks with multiple initiator controllers, such as CPU and BMC, to support targets over a large physical network running at full speed by enhancing signal integrity and lowering capacitive loading. They also support heterogeneous designs by delivering IO level shifting and protocol translation for mixed I2C/SMBus and I3C networks.

Current system designs frequently use the legacy I2C protocol and simple FET switches to connect initiator and target devices on a motherboard. This approach cannot scale to I3C speeds, which fundamentally restricts system management to the most rudimentary capabilities. The company's new intelligent switch family enables expansion of two initiator (upstream) ports to four, eight or more target ports at max speed with full protocol awareness and compliance. The new family also offers seamless translation between I3C and I2C devices, permitting legacy devices' full plug and play compatibility onto the control plane network. The switch results from close collaboration between Renesas and Intel teams, beginning with conception, specification definition and other pre-silicon activities. The collaboration continued post-silicon activities, including software development and component and system-level validation.

"Renesas was the pioneer of I3C hubs and expanders targeting the DDR5 DIMM market, and we have always imagined great potential for this technology to proliferate across the entire platform," said Rami Sethi, vice president, Infrastructure Mixed Signal Division at Renesas. "We are thrilled to have worked with Intel to realise that vision with the introduction of our new I3C intelligent switch family. These devices empower our customers and partners to bring advanced platform management capabilities to every subsystem within the rack."

"We are pleased at the strong collaboration between Renesas and Intel in defining an essential circuit solution for the expanding use cases of MIPI I3C Basic applications," said Vik Tymchenko, VP and GM Platform Hardware Engineering Division at Intel. "Products like the I3C intelligent switch family help solve the fundamental limitations of MIPI I3C interface implementations in data centre hardware. With an I3C switch, we can increase capacitance and devices supported by an I3C network."

By Natasha Shek