Monday, January 28, 2013

Broadcom brings ARM to the Enterprise with new Ethernet switch SoCs

In a January announcement with ARM, Broadcom disclosed that they had signed an agreement to extend their licenses for the 32 bit ARMv7 CPU, with the addition of the latest 64 bit ARMv8 architecture. While the industry continues to watch for developments of ARM-based servers to enter the enterprise and data center space, Broadcom announced today that they have integrated single and dual-core ARM Cortex A9 CPUs into their new StrataXGS series SoCs, for enterprise Ethernet switching applications.  

Nikhil Desai, Enterprise Product Line Manager at Broadcom, says that the BCM56340 family is the company's 8th-generation of Ethernet switches, providing higher integration while lowering cost and power by bringing the CPU functions on-chip, which previously required a separate device. The BCM56340 also provides for easier integration of wireless and wireline networks, by implementing the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) standard for Control and Provisioning of Wireless Access Points (CAPWAP). Desai says that building this capability into the switch provides for more efficient bandwidth utilization and scalability as enterprises migrate their WLANs from 802.11n WiFi to "Gigabit" 802.11ac.

Broadcom sees enterprise customers transitioning their network aggregation links from 1 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) to 10 GbE, so the new StrataXGS integrates 10G SerDes into the switch to save cost. The BCM56340 series will also support Broadcom's  App-IQ technology, which distributes security intelligence to the network edge through high bandwidth Deep Packet Inspection (DPI). With App-IQ, IT managers gain greater application visibility, to address issues which arise with the growth of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) in workplace environments. App-IQ classifies data transmissions and enables implementation of policies at the point where the traffic enters the network, like a mini-firewall. Enterprises can adapt their use of App-IQ to allow/disallow applications via a programmable signature match engine. The BCM56340 also supports IEEE 802.1BR for network virtualization.

The new StrataXGS family will initially consist of three products. Desai says that the BCM56340, with a 48-port GbE switch, is designed for use in enterprise wiring closets. The 56340 provides for 10G uplinks and 40G stacking. Broadcom is targeting the BCM56547 more for the aggregation layer in large enterprise campuses, with increased bandwidth to support 40G uplinks, and 80G stacking. The 56340 and 56547 are both dual-core Cortex A9 architectures, while the BCM56150 is a single-core device, scaled for use in small and medium enterprise wiring closets, providing 24 10 GbE ports.

Along with the BCM56340 series announcements, Broadcom is also adapting some of the StrataXGS functionality for Small-to-Medium Business (SMB) networks with a new StrataConnect Series of switch SoCs. Sanjay Kumar, Associate Product Line Director for Connectivity at Broadcom, sees an emerging trend for SMBs to also upgrade to 10 GbE for connections to servers and storage, and for uplinks to the network core. Like the StrataXGS, the StrataConnect series also integrate ARM A9 CPUs. The BCM53333 and 53334 integrate a 125MHz Cortex-A9 processor, while the BCM53344 and BCM53346 employ 400MHz A9 CPUs.  The BCM53344 and BCM53346 offer up to 24 GbE ports with a maximum of four integrated 1G and 10G SerDes transceivers. All of the new StrataConnect switch SoCs have embedded 16 GbE PHYs.

Kumar says that the StrataConnect is designed to support the increasing use of public cloud-based services by SMBs, with features such as hardware-based security to protect against Denial-of-Service (DoS) and "Man in the Middle" attacks. Administrators can use application signatures to give privileges to groups of users, rather than requiring an individual setup for each account. The new generation of SMB switches provides for eight queues that IT managers can use to prioritize the bandwidth allocated to applications.

Broadcom has reduced power consumption with the new StrataConnect series by adapting the IEEE's Energy Efficient Ethernet (EEE) standard to allow the switches to stay in the standby mode for longer periods of time. A configurable LED intensity control also allows for reducing power by dimming panel lights. 

The StrataConnect series are now available in sample quantities, and Broadcom is targeting with volume production for later in the first half of 2013. The StrataXGS BCM56340 Series is also sampling now and Broadcom is planning on volume production in the second half of 2013

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