SAN JOSE, Calif. – Broadcom announced a new generation of its mainstream Ethernet switches, adding packet processing features and lowering costs at a time of rising competition. When the Trident 3 ships next year it will power systems with as many as 32 100 Gbit/second Ethernet ports that cost as little as $3,000 and consume less than 400W.
The news comes amid a barrage of announcements from competitors entering the networking market where Broadcom has held more than a 90 percent market share. An analyst for the Linley Group said the news supports his forecast that prices of Ethernet switch chips could drop from more than $60 per 100G port last year to about $36/port in 2020.
Trident 3 is a family of five 16nm chips with ports supporting 1-100 Gbit/s Ethernet. They range from a 200 Gbit/s aggregate chip for campus Wi-Fi access points to 3.2 Tbit/s components for data center top-of-rack switches and aggregation networks
Broadcom gathered support for Trident 3 from a broad range of OEMs, unbranded system suppliers and third-party software developers. They included Accton, Arista, Big Switch, Cumulus, Dell, Delta Networks, Extreme Networks, IP Infusion and Quanta.
The Trident line is the heart of Broadcom’s switch business with more than 100 million installed ports. Separate Tomahawk and Jericho lines aim to deliver maximum bandwidth and fan-out capabilities, respectively to the world’s largest data centers and service providers.
Trident 3 uses four PCIe Gen 3 lanes, up from two Gen 2 lines in current switches as well as two upgraded ARM R5 and multiple M0 cores to offload housekeeping jobs from a host processor. (Images: Broadcom)
Broadcom held a whopping 94.5 percent share of the $687 million market for merchant 10–40-Gbit/second Ethernet switch chips in 2015, according to the Linley Group. Cavium, Marvell and startup Nephos have chips competing with Trident.
Cavium has won sockets at Arista and Brocade for its 28nm XPliant chip and reaped “meaningful revenue last year,” said Bob Wheeler, principal networking analyst at the Linley Group. Marvell’s 28nm Bobcat 3 chip with 25GE ports is sampling, but offers lower performance than Trident 3.
Nephos spun out of Taiwan’s Mediatek with 1 to 3.2 Tbit/s switch chips to rival Trident. It will use TSMC’s InFO packaging to create a 6.4 Tbit/s version to compete with Broadcom’s Tomahawk II.
It’s too early to tell whether the broad set of products announced in March and based on one RTL design will gain traction, but they are not highly programmable, Wheeler said. The startup claims its users include a data center in China and a division of Taiwan’s second largest company.
At least two other startups—Barefoot and Innovium—are mainly targeting Broadcom’s high-end Tomahawk chip. Innovium announced its 12.8 Tbit/s TeraLynx switch in March and a $38.3 million Series C round that brought its total funding to $90 million. It expects to sample in the fall and won early support from a networking executive at LinkedIn.
Barefoot debuted a year ago, backed by some of the early pioneers of the move to software-defined networks. It helped create the open source P4 language for networking and its chips recently got attention from AT&T as well as China’s three largest data center operators.
In the face of the rising competition, “Broadcom is trying to get the message out it will be competitive on price,” said Wheeler.
It also made a point about its backward compatibility with the Trident 2 and support for regression testing. “That’s a powerful part of being an incumbent versus people launching a first-gen platform,” he added.
Overall, Trident 3 aims to offer new programming capabilities with deterministic performance at a new low in cost and power. “That’s big,” said Wheeler.
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