Broadcom Rolls New Silicon for 100 Terabits per Second Switching

The race to accelerate the networking market to 100 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) is getting a boost this week thanks to new technology from semiconductor vendor Broadcom (NASDAQ:BRCM). Broadcom’s silicon is used by multiple switching and routing vendors.

Broadcom announced the new BCM88600 series of Ethernet switching silicon, which can scale from 100 Gigabits per second (Gbps) to 100 Terabits per second (Tbps). Broadcom’s announcement comes at a time when the market for 100 GbE based solutions is heating up. Networking vendors including Cisco, Juniper, Alcatel-Lucent and Brocade have all announced plans to put 100 GbE equipment in customer hands.

Eyal Dagan, senior director and general manager at Broadcom’s Yakum Design Center told that his company spent approximately two years with a team of approximately 100 engineers developing the new solution. Broadcom’s engineers had to overcome a number of challenges developing the BCM88600 series.

“The main challenge is that this device integrates a set of complex functions (e.g. micro-coded Packet Processor, Traffic Manager) and has to work in the context of large systems scaling to 100 Tbps,” Dagan said. “This adds to the fact that this is the first industry device that can process a single stream of 100 GbE, which makes the design of each such function a challenge on its own.”

It has been a busy year for Broadcom overall in pushing the boundaries of Ethernet switching speeds. Dagan noted that earlier this year, Broadcom introduced the BCM5685 which has a total capacity of 640 Gbps. That said, the BCM5685 only had a maximum port rate of 40 GbE, so it could support up to 16 ports of 40 GbE or 64 ports of 10 GbE.

Dagan explained that the BCM88600 series silicon can support a port rate of 100 GbE.

“That is, it can process a single flow of packets at the rate of 100 Gbps and is first device that can be used to build switches/routers with a total capacity of 100 Tbps, using several devices,” Dagan said.

In total, the BCM88600 can be used in a solution that could support 10,000 wire speed ports of 10 GbE or 1,000 ports of 100 GbE.

“100 Tbps is achieved via a cluster of devices interconnected via an architecture named Clos with Dynamic Routing,” Dagan said. “This novel architecture enables the creation of massively scalable switching machines.”

The IEEE ratified the 100 GbE standard earlier this year after several years of development.

“The functions integrated inside the device are compliant with the IEEE spec at 40/100GE rates,” Dagan said. “The device is already sampling and is designed into many vendor switching platforms currently in development.”

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals.

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