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This Issue's Feature Articles

The Winner of the Best Test Product of the Year is an Agilent Oscilloscope

 By Louis Y. Ungar, Editor-In-Chief, The BestTest Newsletter
Based on an Interview with Agilent Product Manager for the Design Validation Division,
Takuya Furuta.

Real-Time Oscilloscopes Automate Jitter Test and Eye Diagram Measurements for High-Speed Serial Data Compliance Testing 

By Gregory Davis, Market Development Manager, Tektronix, Inc.

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This issue's focus is Oscilloscope
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The Winner of the Best Test Product of the Year is an Agilent Oscilloscope

By Louis Y. Ungar, Editor-In-Chief, The BestTest Newsletter
Based on an Interview with Agilent Product Managefor the Design Validation Division, Takuya Furuta.

At the APEX conference in Los Angeles last month, Test & Measurement World gave out its Best in Test awards at a breakfast they hosted.  The winners in various categories had already been named, but the excitement mounted when they announced the winning test product …drums, drums, drums… for 2006, is …more drums… the Agilent Infiniium DSO80000B Oscilloscope.  Had the nice young man, Jun Chie from Agilent sitting next to me not been as ecstatic, I admit I might have been a bit disappointed.  Not because the product doesn’t deserve to be a winner but because inherently an oscilloscope did not strike me as all that big of a deal.  So, with this article in mind, I did a bit of research, interviewed Mr. Takuya Furuta, Product Manager of the Design Validation Division at Agilent Technologies, and compared it to other scopes in the market.  My conclusion is that oscilloscopes aren’t even in the same species that they used to be.  This article will highlight the oscilloscope that the editors of Test & Measurement World found to be the Best, and now you, the readers of BestTest can judge for yourself.

I was directed to Mr. Furuta as the person who could answer my questions.  I bluntly asked him right off the bat what made this product qualify to be the Best in Test in 2006.  His response was thorough.  Superior signal integrity and probing for you application, is our key product value and the reason for winning the award, I believe.  Our highest signal integrity provides the repeatable, stable, and the largest design margins to the high speed digital application engineers.  Our InfiniiMax probe system provides the highest flexibility and accuracy among all probing solutions, and finally, our industry’s only ‘bandwidth upgrade’ feature provides unmatched investment protection by covering not only today’s application supports but future applications,” Mr. Furuta explained.  His answer sounded good, but I had to understand his terminology better.  Superior signal integrity is supported by what Agilent considers the industry’s lowest noise floor (131 mV rms noise at 5 mV/div with 2 GHz model or 387 mV rms noise at 5 mV/div with 12 GHz model) and lowest trigger jitter (at 500 fs rms specified and 250 fs rms typical).  When I asked why Agilent considers this model to have the flattest frequency response, he pointed to the picture of Figure 1.

The low noise figures are partly attributed to Agilent’s CMOS ADC architecture, a monolithic 20 GSa/s ADC.  It is credited with achieving the lowest sampling noise and error, while also reducing the power consumption.  Since “high power usage is always the worst enemy for the signal quality,” Mr. Furuta feels this is an important distinction from other scopes in the industry.

Figure 1 – DSO80000B Frequency Response “Flatness”

I continued to probe into the probing prowess (pun intended) of the DSO800000B.  It is the uniqueness of the InfiniiMax probe system that in Mr. Furuta’s view sets a new standard in the probe market.  “First of all, the unique topology of interchangeable probe amps and probe heads took the flexibility of probe usage to the next level.  Then, InfiniiMax probe was the first to provide a solder-in probing solution, which changed the dynamics of the probing completely,” argues Mr. Furuta.  He points to three ways that solder-in probing is implemented as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2 – InfiniiMax Probe Solder-in Probe Solutions

The DSO80000B covers a frequency range between 2 GHz and 13 GHz in eight different “series,” namely 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, and 13 GHz.  But this does not imply eight different oscilloscope models, nor even eight different plug-in modules.  Rather, the customer can buy the scope with a preferred initial bandwidth and then “add” more bandwidth through a process Agilent calls “bandwidth upgradeability.”

What I found impressive and shared with my interviewee, was that with the oscilloscope performing jitter analysis, vector analysis and other forms of waveform analysis, why call it “just” an “oscilloscope?”  I guess Agilent had recognized the multifaceted function of this product as well, since it has released two different types of DSO80000B series recently.  One is the DSA80000B and the other is a VSA80000A.  DSA stands for “digital signal analyzer” and comes with a pre-installed jitter analysis package and a software clock data recovery package.  Similarly, the VSA80000A is installed with VSA software that enables the user to choose its function between a scope and an ultra wide band vector signal analyzer.

“All this complexity must have its impact on the user,” I argued, “who will need a considerable amount of time to properly learn to utilize this instrument.”  Mr. Furuta disagrees.  He said that as a result of an Agilent/HP usability study in the last decade, Agilent made a commitment to “ease of use.”  Agilent scopes use a Wizard format so that even a novice engineer can start his/her analysis immediately.  This idea for ease of use was expanded on further for the DSO80000B, with a “SW event finder triggering solution, called InfiniiScan.”

With so much going on in test, why should an oscilloscope merit being the Best in Test product in the 21st Century?  “The scope is the fundamental tool of hardware engineers -it’s like their arms and legs,” maintained this Agilent product manager passionately.  “The signal rates are getting faster and faster.  The whole industry now understands the need for the high signal integrity.  The scope is the tool to analyze the signal integrity of the customers’ device under test (DUT).”

Well, with my renewed respect for “just” an oscilloscope, I found myself asking how far scopes are likely to go.  Just as passionately, his answers were rolling out.  “I believe the scope which can address the essential application space the most will win the heart of customers.  Also, investment protection will become even more important in coming years.  These scopes are pretty expensive.”  When I asked how much, he pointed me to the Agilent web page for the product line, but estimated that a fully loaded highest bandwidth scope with a full probe configuration will likely cost around US$200,000.

That’s more zeros that there are in the DSO80000B product’s part number.  So I asked why so many 0s and almost instantly regretted the question.  So for those of you who also want to know, here is the answer.  “DSO80000B series have 8 models, DSO80204B, DSO80304B, DSO80404B, DSO80604B, DSO80804B, DSO81004B, DSO81204B, and DSO81304B.  DSO stands for Digital Storage Oscilloscope, 8 is the family number for Infiniium series, next three digits indicate the bandwidth, and 4 stands for a four channel scope.  B is there since our previous product was A model.”

At Agilent “it is the marketing department that develops the definition of the product by collaborating with the planning team.”  In the case of the DSO80000B it was Lon Hintze, the Product Planner for High Performance Oscilloscopes in the Design Validation Division who filled this role.  He is known as the “owner” for defining this scope.

I came away with something profound Mr. Furuta said that made this digital, testability, built-in self test (BIST), automatic test equipment (ATE) oriented test engineer reconsider my thinking about oscilloscopes.  He said, “there is no other tool that can replace a scope.”  But it looks like it doesn’t limit a scope’s ability to replace other test tools.

 
Real Time Oscilloscopes Automate Jitter Test and Eye Diagram Measurements for High Speed Serial Data Compliance Testing

By Gregory Davis, Market Development Manager, Tektronix, Inc.

 

In the computing and communications industries, a degree of standardization at the system, subsystem, and component levels is the foundation that technology builds upon. Examples of standardization range from LVDS signaling to the PCI Express serial bus designed to replace current PCI technology. Standards pervade semiconductor architectures, network protocols, and software components. And for every standard, there must be some means of certification, some way to prove that new products are in compliance with the standard.

 

While each of these standards has its own unique qualities, most of them share some fundamental characteristics, particularly in the area of testing where jitter tests and eye diagram measurements are critical factor when determining the quality of a signal. Both measurements require statistical analysis of vast amounts of data. And both are key elements of serial compliance testing.

 

Eye diagrams have been the province of sampling oscilloscopes for years. The sampling methodology provides accurate measurements with a very low jitter noise factor (JNF). However, the requirement for a stable, uninterrupted signal makes the sampling instrument impractical when performing industry standard jitter measurements. More recently, some real-time oscilloscopes have incorporated clock recovery circuits based on a PLL technology. They perform eye diagram tests using random Equivalent Time sampling. This technique is similar to the technique used in sampling oscilloscopes and requires repetitive trigger events to build an eye diagram and is susceptible to trigger jitter.

 

Fortunately, some real-time oscilloscopes offer another means of eye rendering. They rely on the single-trigger nature of real-time acquisition, capturing a contiguous series of complete waveform cycles as they occur after the trigger event. The embedded clock is recovered in software after the acquisition, and the actual waveform edges are “redrawn” using the recovered clock as the reference. Figure 1 is an eye diagram derived using this methodology.

 

There are several advantages to this approach. It provides a JNF as low as 700 fs on certain real-time oscilloscope models, making it the equal of sampling oscilloscopes in terms of eye diagram precision.

And because the clock is recovered using software DSP, clock recovery is not limited to a single algorithm. The software-based package provides an interface for changing the method by which the clock is recovered, a valuable asset in a world of constantly evolving standards. Real-time clock recovery and eye rendering also provides a means for separating transition bits from non-transition bits and performing separate mask testing operations on each type of bit as is required for PCI Express applications. Figure 4 shows the separation of Transition and Non-Transition bits from the eye diagram shown in Figure 1.

 

It is often necessary to analyze the data more deeply in the context of the compliance measurements. For example, an eye diagram test may fail because the embedded clock signal has too much modulation. The eye diagram shows only violations to the mask, but a Time Interval Error ( TIE ) waveform trend or frequency spectrum can reveal further clues. Other built-in real-time oscilloscope tools such as cursor measurements and zoom controls can aid the in-depth analysis.

 

Eye diagrams and jitter measurements in particular produce a volume of data that would be difficult to manage without the help of automated analysis tools. Figure 2 shows the user interface of an integrated analysis package running on a real-time oscilloscope. Key measurements such as rise and fall time can be set up with just one on-screen “button.” The acquisition window presents the raw serial waveform. But Figures 3 and 4 bring out the true benefit of the analysis package. In Figure 3 the automated tools work on the waveform from Figure 4 to produce an information-rich jitter trend analysis. 

 

Figure 1. Real-time eye diagram displayed with post-processing techniques.

Figure 2. The user interface window of a serial analysis tool running on a real-time oscilloscope.

Figure 3. A jitter trend analysis. The real-time waveform is shown in blue, and the jitter trend in red.

Figure 4. Serial compliance summary screen showing the eye pattern mandated by the standard as well as quantitative results in tabular form.

 

Summary

Serial buses, components, and transmission elements are here to stay, and are destined to grow in importance as technology markets continue to demand ever-accelerating data rates. Design and validation engineers have a new and perhaps unfamiliar discipline—serial compliance measurement—to learn even as they confront aggressive development schedules and fast-changing standards. Thanks to innovative, automated oscilloscopes and other tools, engineers can perform serial compliance and validation tests with the same ease and accuracy as any other measurement.

 
Next Issue's Product/Service Focus
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Events/Announcements

2007-2008

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New Definitions
New terms added to the Test Definition section:
AC Coupling Low-Frequency Cut-Off (–3 dB)
Acquisition Time
Amplitude Flatness
Aperture Delay Time
Aperture Jitter
Attenuation Rate
Darlington Drive Output Current
Data Transfers
Digital RF
Droop Rate
Equivalent Time Sampling
Gain Error
Hold Mode Settling Time
Hold Step
Input Offset Current
Input Signal Range
Intermodulation Distortion
Intermodule Skew
Maximum Sampling Rate
Normal Mode Rejection
Offset Error or DC Offset Error
Output Impedance
Overload Recovery Time
Overvoltage Protection
Passband Ripple
Phase Linearity
Propagation Delay
Relative Humidity
Settling Time to Full Scale Step
Signal Delay
Stability
Stopband
We now have 2397 test terms in our Test Definition section.

Share your definitions with the test community.