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Trident 4 boosts enterprise switch capacity to 12.8 terabit

  • Broadcom’s Trident 4 switch chip has a capacity of 12.8 terabits, 4x the capacity of its Trident 3.
  • The chip reduces fourfold the cost of a 128x100-gigabit switch.  
  • The Trident 4 adds compiler programmability  
  • This is the company’s first switch chip in 7nm CMOS. 

Broadcom has unveiled the Trident 4, its latest family of switch chips for the enterprise. 

The largest-capacity Trident 4 family member, the X11 chip, has a switching capacity of 12.8 terabits. This is a fourfold increase in capacity compared to Broadcom’s current high-end enterprise chip, the Trident 3, announced in June 2017.  

The Trident 4 will also reduce the cost of a 128x100-gigabit switch by a factor of four. The current cost of a 12.8-terabit switch, a multi-chassis solution, is $245,000 not including the pluggable optics, says Broadcom, citing market research firm, The Dell’Oro Group.

“The announcement is significant both in updating the Trident line for enterprise and in adding compiler programmability thereby limiting the openings for competitors such as Barefoot - soon Intel - Innovium, and Marvell,” says Bob Wheeler, vice president of The Linley Group and principal analyst for networking.

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UK quantum algorithm start-up targets first opportunity 

A UK start-up developing software for quantum computers has received £3.25 million ($4.1 million) in funding. 

Riverlane, based in Cambridge, is working with leading quantum computing hardware companies as well as large corporates interested in benefiting from the technology.

The start-up will use the funding to grow the company and has already identified the most promising applications for the technology.



“A lot of people are building hardware using various technologies such as iron trap or supercomputing qubits,” says Steve Brierley, CEO of Riverlane. “What we are trying to do is make that [hardware] useful as soon as possible.” A qubit is the shorthand term for a quantum bit.

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Sense and sustainability 

What causes someone to change roles, to turn to sustainability after years as a distinguished engineer? An interview with Klaus Grobe of ADVA; the second in a series of articles about work.

Klaus Grobe spent nine productive years as part of the Advanced Technology team at ADVA. 

Grobe had authored 150 academic papers, issued 25 patents, and had published, along with co-author Michael Eiselt, a textbook on wavelength division multiplexing (WDM) when, in 2015, he decided to switch roles and become ADVA’s director of sustainability. 

Two factors influenced his decision: one was the importance he attached to the topic of carbon emissions and global warming, the second was a sense that it was time for a change. 

“I wouldn’t go so far as to say that being a technologist had become boring but it wasn’t that exciting anymore,” says Grobe. “I was looking for something new and perhaps more relevant.” 

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Microchip launches the first terabit physical layer device  

Microchip Technology has unveiled a family of physical layer (PHY) Ethernet devices with a capacity of 1.2 terabits.

The Meta-DX1 PHY family comprises three devices that support three 400 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) channels, a dozen 100GbE channels or 24, 10GbE channels. 

“We are not aware of any PHY in the industry that supports more than one terabit of traffic,” says Stephen Docking, manager, product marketing at the communications business unit of Microchip. 

The company is also claiming another industry first in offering a PHY that supports the Open Internetworking Forum’s (OIF) Flexible Ethernet (FlexE) standard. 

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Open Eye MSA offers an alternative to PAM-4 DSPs 

A group of companies, led by Macom and Semtech, have launched a multi-source agreement (MSA) to offer an alternative to using a digital signal processor (DSP) in high-speed client-side optical modules. 

The Open Eye MSA is developing a set of specifications for optical modules that use 50-gigabit 4-level pulse-amplitude modulation (PAM-4) signals whereby only analogue clock and data recovery (CDR) circuitry is required at the receiver.  

By using the CDR instead of a PAM-4 DSP, the optical module will consume less power, have lower latency and be less costly to make, says the MSA.

To ensure interoperability, however, module makers using a PAM-4 DSP will need to meet the new MSA specification. 

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ONF’s published reference designs start to be deployed

Operators are already deploying the first reference designs published by the Open Networking Foundation (ONF). Three of the ONF’s five reference designs have now been made public. 

Just over a year ago, eight operators - AT&T, Comcast, China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, Google, NTT Group, Telefonica and Turk Telekom - took the step to design key components of their edge and access networks after becoming frustrated with what they perceived as foot-dragging by the systems vendors.  

AT&T is deploying one of the reference designs - the SDN-enabled broadband access scheme (SEBA). Deutsche Telekom and Telefónica have also said they will deploy SEBA during 2019 and 2020. 

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COBO brings operational benefits to the data centre 

Brad Booth admits the hyperscalers have a problem.

“Our operational inefficiencies are massive and it is only going to get worse,” says Booth, principal network architect for Microsoft’s Azure Infrastructure and chair of the Consortium for On-Board Optics (COBO).

The COBO-enabled 12.8-terabit demonstrator switch. Source: COBO

The issue, he says, is that when a switch arrives at the data centre, it comes without the optics installed. The operations staff must unpack the optical modules, plug them into the switch and verify that each is working; an exercise that is repeated thousands of times when they commission a new data centre.

“The time it takes for us to get the network up and running impacts how quickly we can monetise the data centre,” says Booth.

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