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As Cisco (supposedly) works on its next switching ASIC, Broadcom continues to push merchant chips forward

Broadcom Switches Push Into Terabit Range

Craig Matsumoto
News Analysis
Craig Matsumoto
8/27/2012
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SAN FRANCISCO -- VMworld -- Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM) is introducing an Ethernet switch chip that, it claims, can support 32 40Gbit/s ports or more than 100 10Gbit/s ports.

The Trident II series, the latest entry in Broadcom's StrataXGS switch-chip family, is being announced Monday, coinciding with the start of VMworld.

The chip also has some virtualization-related features, such as the ability to do Layer 3 encapsulation for VxLAN and NVGRE, which, respectively, are VMware Inc. (NYSE: VMW) and Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) technologies that move virtual machines across Layer 3 tunnels rather than simply over Layer 2.

Why this matters
Broadcom has already done a lot to enable the latest generation of 10Gbit/s Ethernet switches, and now it's looking toward increased density at power levels it claims can be less than 1 watt per port.

Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC), through the Fulcrum Microsystems acquisition, and Marvell Technology Group Ltd. (Nasdaq: MRVL) are supplying high-end Ethernet switch chips as well, and startup Centec wants to get into the market. There's no shortage of sources for anyone who wants to compete with Cisco.

Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) uses merchant chips itself, but -- like Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) and Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) -- still contends that application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) are necessary for the most advanced pieces of equipment. Cisco is supposedly at work on its next ASIC-based Ethernet switch, courtesy of spin-in Insieme Networks Inc.

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— Craig Matsumoto, Managing Editor, Light Reading

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