Comms chips

Switch Chips Bloom at the High End

Systems vendors would seem to be running out of reasons to keep using homegrown switch chips in high-end Ethernet boxes and other types of gear, based on the trends detailed in the latest Heavy Reading Components Insider.

Chips from companies including Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM), Fulcrum Microsystems Inc. and Marvell Technology Group Ltd. (Nasdaq: MRVL) are accommodating higher speeds and more features, and they're getting especially potent in port capacity; announced devices carry up to 72 10Gbit/s Ethernet ports, the report notes.

"Over the last 12 months, switch silicon vendors have changed the market landscape," writes Simon Stanley, principal analyst for Earlswood Marketing Ltd. and author of the report.

Why this matters
The advantages that big systems companies had in raw chip hardware seems to be fading.

It's true that Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) still tend to design ASICs for their highest-end, flagship products. But they're adopting merchant chips more often, "partly driven by high cost of ASIC developments and partly driven by acquisitions," Stanley notes in an e-mail to Light Reading.

These chips could also help smaller systems vendors, particularly those in Asia/Pacific, build relatively cheap equipment that can compete for 40Gbit/s, 100Gbit/s and very dense 10Gbit/s cases. That could lead to more competition for the big players -- or more choices for possible acquisitions.

For more
Here's more about switch chips and Ethernet chips, including some Lippis Enterprises analysis on 10Gbit/s switches for data centers.

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

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