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Tuesday
Sep182018

Switch chips not optics set the pace in the data centre  

Broadcom is doubling the capacity of its switch silicon every 18-24 months, a considerable achievement given that Moore’s law has slowed down. 

Last December, Broadcom announced it was sampling its Tomahawk 3 - the industry’s first 12.8-terabit switch chip - just 14 months after it announced its 6.4-terabit Tomahawk 2.

Rochan SankarSuch product cycle times are proving beyond the optical module makers; if producing next-generation switch silicon is taking up to two years, optics is taking three, says Broadcom. 

“Right now, the problem with optics is that they are the laggards,” says Rochan Sankar, senior director of product marketing at switch IC maker, Broadcom. “The switching side is waiting for the optics to be deployable.”

The consequence, says Broadcom, is that in the three years spanning a particular optical module generation, customers have deployed two generations of switches. For example, the 3.2-terabit Tomahawk based switches and the higher-capacity Tomahawk 2 ones both use QSFP28 and SFP28 modules. 

In future, a closer alignment in the development cycles of the chip and the optics will be required, argues Broadcom.

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