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FlexDCA Sampling Oscilloscope Software

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FlexDCA Sampling Oscilloscope Software

Keysight DCA Family

What is FlexDCA?

Keysight’s N1010A FlexDCA is the software that runs Keysight’s DCA family of sampling oscilloscopes (also known as equivalent-time oscilloscopes). A Digital Communication Analyzer (DCA) is an instrument designed to visualize and analyze the analog properties of high-speed signals like the ones used in wireline telecom and datacenter links. FlexDCA runs on the N1000A DCA-X mainframe or any instrument or PC/laptop that uses Microsoft Windows 7 or 10. It is used to control measurement hardware (i.e., the DCA family of oscilloscopes and clock recovery hardware), both as a local user interface (UI) and for remote control. FlexDCA is also a visual output for simulation (such as Keysight’s ADS and SystemVue products) and for remote access to supported DCA mainframes.

In addition to acquiring data and making measurements, FlexDCA also encompasses powerful tools that boost productivity and provide insights into root causes of issues with the signal or device under test. FlexDCA has been used and continues to evolve for applications like:

  • Research and design verification of electrical transmitters (ASICs, FPGAs, PHYs)
  • Research, development, and manufacturing of optical transmitters/transceivers
  • Analysis of reflections and transmission characteristics of electrical components and channels
  • General-purpose analysis of analog and digital signals                                

FlexDCA Software Running on Mainframes

FlexDCA comes pre-installed on all DCA-X sampling oscilloscope mainframes. It instantly recognizes supported modules in any of the four available slots and allows hot-swapping them. In addition, virtual slots 5 through 8 can be used for up to four DCA-Ms connected via USB, resulting in a total of 32 measurement channels (four quad-channel mini-modules plus four quad-channel DCA-Ms).

FlexDCA Software Driving Mini DCAs (DCA-Ms), Clock Recovery Units

Standalone “mini DCAs” (DCA-Ms) provide optical and electrical measurement channels and clock recovery (CR) capabilities in a half-rack-width form factor. They don’t have a front panel user interface. Instead FlexDCA – running either on a PC/laptop or on a DCA-X mainframe - drives them for both manual operation and remote control.

FlexDCA Software to Display/Analyze SystemVue, ADS Simulations

Many serial link design engineers have been using Keysight’s SystemVue or Advanced Design System (ADS) as their primary design tool. The Channel Simulator from ADS provides very fast yet accurate channel simulation by bit-by-bit and statistical simulation technology. Along with the support of industry standard IBIS-AMI models, ADS offer comprehensive solutions for most serial link standards such as PAM4. However, some engineers want to use FlexDCA’s built-in measurement capability such as TDECQ with the simulated data from ADS, or compare the simulation results directly with the measured data in FlexDCA. With the new “FlexDCA Probe” feature of ADS, design engineers will be able to output the simulated results directly to FlexDCA.

The new FlexDCA Probe supports two modes, Static and Dynamic. The static mode allows design engineers to write the waveform files to text (.txt) format which can be read in to FlexDCA later1.. Whereas, the Dynamic mode automatically invokes FlexDCA and populates the specified memory channels or slots with the waveform data, up to 8 channels, streamlining the workflow.


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