Altera and Innocor Unveil Open Lightweight High-Speed Serial Protocol

11/11/2003 - Altera Corporation (NASDAQ: ALTR) and Innocor released the specification for SerialLite, a lightweight serial communications protocol for high-speed point-to-point data transmission. This new, free, open protocol is designed to reduce the footprint, latency, and overhead issues experienced with other serial protocols. Intended for systems used in wireless and wired communications, computer, video broadcast, data storage, industrial, and automation applications, SerialLite offers a rich, scalable feature set including scalable data transfer rates extending into the hundreds of gigabits per second (Gbps).

Altera and Innocor are also developing an HDL core and reference design to facilitate protocol implementation. The core will be optimized for Altera’s StratixTM GX devices, which offer high data transmission rates (500 Mbps-40.8 Gbps). The core and reference design will be publicly available at no cost.

Altera and Innocor are currently engaged with major ASSP manufacturers regarding the implementation of this protocol on an industry-wide basis. “As serial interfaces become more common, individual applications will have different protocol requirements. Other serial protocols offer a variety of features to accommodate these diverse requirements, often necessitating an extensive design effort. SerialLite, however, is a standard, simple, scalable point-to-point serial protocol, which satisfies a large need in the industry,” said Kevin Leary, product line director, Wireless Infrastructure, DSPS Division, Analog Devices, Inc. “We see SerialLite as an important development and expect it to be widely used in many market segments, including the wireless and wireline industries.”

“We worked with Innocor to develop the SerialLite protocol based on feedback from many of our customers who wanted a serial protocol that was easier to use, consumed fewer resources, and had a lower latency than any of the protocols currently available,” said David Greenfield, Altera’s senior director of product marketing for FPGA products. “We have designed this protocol to make it truly feature-scalable. Applications using programmable transceivers that support SerialLite can be configured to include or exclude features as needed, allowing the designer to decide just how light the protocol will be in any specific system.”

Feature-Rich Open Protocol
“SerialLite is important because it is the only truly open, lightweight, high-speed serial protocol with no restrictions on implementation platform. This means the specification and sample code will both be publicly available at no cost and without restriction on how it may be legally used,” said Randy Gill, president of Innocor. “The release of SerialLite in this manner follows the founding goals of the protocol itself –efficient, flexible, and easy-to-use.”

Although it consumes less overhead than other serial protocols, the flexibility of SerialLite allows for a highly feature-rich implementation if desired. Basic protocol features include: 8B/10B encoding performed in the PHY layer, packet encapsulation performed in the link layer, and a back-end interface using the AtlanticTM interface. Optional protocol features include: virtually unlimited channel bonding scalability, the ability to operate in either streaming or packet-based transfer mode, packet prioritization, data integrity protection using CRC-16 or CRC-32, multiple channel multiplexing, flow control, and retry-on-error. Many of the optional features in SerialLite, such as retry on error, channel multiplexing, and CRC, are not available in any other lightweight serial protocols. In addition, the protocol employs the well-established XAUI electrical specification to enhance its ease of use.

The protocol specification is currently available on, a web site dedicated to this new protocol. The first public beta code of the SerialLite protocol will be available for free in the first quarter of 2004, with complete protocol implementation currently scheduled for release in the second quarter of that year. The code will also be available on

About Stratix GX Devices
The Stratix GX family is Altera’s second-generation embedded transceiver family and is based on a 0.13-micron process technology with 1.5-V core voltage. Stratix GX devices have up to 20 embedded 3.1875-Gbps transceivers and up to 45 differential I/O pins with dedicated DPA capability supporting up to 1-Gbps source-synchronous data transfers. For more information about the Stratix GX device family, visit

About Innocor
Innocor is an industry-leading designer of test equipment, development systems and core technology for broadband and legacy telecom applications. Established in 1995, Innocor operates three lines of business: Broadband Test Equipment, Engineering Design Services and FPGA Cores. For more information please visit

About Altera
Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, Altera Corporation (NASDAQ: ALTR) is the world’s pioneer in system-on-a-programmable-chip (SOPC) solutions. Combining programmable logic technology with software tools, intellectual property, and technical services, Altera provides high-value programmable solutions to approximately 14,000 customers worldwide. More information is available at

Altera, The Programmable Solutions Company, the stylized Altera logo, specific device designations and all other words that are identified as trademarks and/or service marks are, unless noted otherwise, the trademarks and service marks of Altera Corporation in the U.S. and other countries.

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