SAN JOSE, Calif. – Broadcom is sampling a chip for data center switches that supports 64 100-Gigabit Ethernet links, beating rivals Cavium and two startups to the punch. The 16nm Tomahawk II gives Broadcom a beachhead at a time when the sector is driving toward software-defined networks.
The chip represents a new high end for Broadcom’s StrataXGS family. It integrates 256 serdes running at more than 25 Gbits/second for 6.4 Tbits/s aggregate bandwidth that also can be configured as 128 50GE ports.
Earlier this year, startup Barefoot Networks announced plans for a 6.4 Tbit/s switch chip it hopes to sample before the end of the year and ship in volume in 2017. Another startup founded by former Broadcom employees raised $50 million earlier this year but has not revealed its product plans yet.
Cavium Networks just started shipping its 3.2 Tbit/s XPliant switch chip, and suggested it will not hotly pursue the 6.4 Tbit/s target. Mellanox also competes in the area with chips that support Ethernet and Infiniband but are mainly used in its own systems.
“Broadcom had a lead of almost a year over Cavium” with its 3.2Tb/s Tomahawk that started shipping last year, said Bob Wheeler, a principal analyst for The Linley Group (Mountain View, Calif.). At that high-end, “Broadcom had 100% market share until now, and Cavium has announced no design wins yet,” he said.
Cavium’s Xpliant has won sockets in eight OEM systems targeting 25G toip-of-rack switches for enterprise, private-cloud systems, said Eric Hayes, a Cavium general manager. “We just released product to production this quarter,” he said.
The company has a follow on product in development. Hayes would not provide details on it but suggested it is not aiming to compete directly with Broadcom’s Tomahawk II.
“There’s a race with Broadcom trying to protect the highest density, but it’s not clear to me that’s where the most money is -- it’s a niche,” said Hayes. “When we survey the market we don’t see a lot of people outside one or two of the largest data centers even talking about it,” he said of the 64 x 100G chip.
Next page: Different views of the software horizon
The Broadview network analytics block is a strategic part of Broadcom's Tomahawk II software stack. (Image: Broadcom)