Broadcom hits 100Gbps network processor
Targets massively parallel Ethernet chip at a new generation of switch-routers to power the data boom
Published: 25 April, 2012
As data and video traffic piles up on mobile and fixed networks, the switch/routers powering them have to keep up, creating a new boom for chipmakers in that sector. Broadcom had fallen behind in the race in recent years, but reignited its interest when it acquired high end network processor supplier NetLogic last year. Now it has showed its hand even more decisively against rivals like Marvell, by unveiling its first 100Gbps processor for the souped-up Ethernet core network.
The company's fourth generation Ethernet network processor, the BCM88030, achieves full-duplex 100Gbps performance courtesy of a massively parallel architecture based on 64 packet processing cores, each running at 1GHz. The company says four of the elements could be included in a line card to achieve 400Gbps performance, but the chip can also be configured to support multiple 10Gbps channels.
"By 2015, there will be twice as many devices connected to the internet as there are people in the world, many of which will be streaming video," said Dan Harding, senior director of marketing, infrastructure and networking at Broadcom. "As a result of this increasing demand for bandwidth, the core of the network is going to need upgrading to 100Gbit Ethernet over the next four years." The 100Gbps Ethernet segment is expected to grow at a rate of 170% a year over the next five years, in terms of the number of Ethernet ports, according to estimates by Infonetics.
Using higher levels of integration has enabled Broadcom to reduce power and size by 80% compared to previous generations, said the firm, and it has also harnessed multithreading and specialized accelerators to offload tasks which previously required external FPGA chips. For instance, there are seven cores dedicated to essential tasks like packet generation, said Broadcom, claiming this is the key differentiator of its new product in terms of performance. Nicolas Tausanovitch, senior product line manager, told EETimes: "By taking on tasks that previously had to be performed external FPGAs and expensive SRAM, designers using our chip can cut now the complexity and bill of materials cost for their line cards."
The new chip can trace its roots to Broadcom's 2006 acquisition of Sandburst, which formed the core of its network processor business, although that had gone rather quiet. It had seen its previous flagship product, at 24Gbps, eclipsed by rivals EZchip and Xelerated, both of which reached 50Gbps in 2010 or early 2011. EZchip says it already has its own 100Gbps offering in the wings, while Marvell is likely to enter the fray too, having acquired Xelerated last year.