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Trident 3 Adopts Programmability

June 27, 2017

Author: Bob Wheeler

Broadcom’s future enterprise-switch portfolio will revolve around the new Trident 3 architecture, which brings both programmability and 25G Ethernet to the company’s mainstream switch family. The family’s aggregate bandwidth will scale from 200Gbps to 3.2Tbps, with the top-end members reaching customers first. The X7 model offers 128x25GbE ports, matching the density of the first-generation Tomahawk. The 2.0Tbps X5 targets a 48x25GbE+8x100GbE configuration in a top-of-rack (ToR) switch. Both products began sampling in 2Q17; the remainder of the initial family is scheduled to arrive in 2H17.

In addition to using 16nm technology, what sets Trident 3 apart from prior generations is its programmable ingress and egress pipelines. Most customers, however, will use Broadcom-supplied images that make Trident 3 backward compatible with Trident II/II+ features and APIs. Programmability enables new capabilities such as in-band network telemetry (INT), service-function chaining (SFC), new tunneling protocols, and sophisticated load-balancing algorithms. The company also increased Trident 3’s control-plane performance through faster interfaces and integrated CPUs for real-time processing.

Broadcom isn’t first to market with a programmable Ethernet switch, nor does it offer the greatest bandwidth in a programmable design. Cavium’s 3.2Tbps Xpliant design sampled more than two years ago and reached production in 2016. Barefoot Networks is backed by several leading data-center operators and is sampling its 6.5Tbps Tofino switch. Trident 3, however, is the first programmable design from an incumbent switch vendor, and it promises customers robust and fully validated features like those of its predecessors. Broadcom also claims Trident 3 will deliver the lowest cost and power dissipation of any 3.2Tbps switch.

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