April 30, 2012
Following its 100Gbit/s network processor, Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM) has introduced a 200Gbit/s switching chip.
The BCM88650 line of chips, announced Monday, is a descendant of the work done at Dune Networks, the switch-fabric company Broadcom acquired in 2009. The chip is a packet processor and traffic manager -- so it's got the kinds of functions a network processor does, but it's not programmable, setting it apart from the BCM88030 announced last week.
While network processors tend to target routers, Broadcom sees the 88650 being used as the foundation of a flat data-center fabric. It could populate stackable pizza-box switches or top-of-rack switches, and it's designed to work in multichassis platforms with up to 4,000 100Gbit/s Ethernet ports.
The 88650 runs 200Gbit/s full duplex, meaning it can handle two 100Gbit/s ports or one 200Gbit/s traffic stream, Broadcom says.
Why this matters
Dune already had a switch fabric that it claimed could handle 100Tbit/s, so in a sense, Broadcom is just letting the switch catch up in terms of capacity.
The high-end switching that Broadcom is targeting here is not a huge market. In terms of merchant chips sold -- as opposed to in-house application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) -- it's maybe a $200 million-a-year market, probably less, says Jag Bolaria, an analyst with The Linley Group .
Broadcom's strategy here is to show that it's got chips covering every size of switch, he says. For the moment, the market is limited because companies such as Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) tend to use ASICs for their highest-end designs, but "I'm not sure if, in the long term, they can keep investing in that captive product," Bolaria says.
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