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Broadcom Builds KBP in 16nm

January 3, 2017

Author: Loring Wirbel

Broadcom is shipping the industry’s first search coprocessor built in FinFET technology. The KBP (knowledge-based processor) search engines appear in service-provider routers and switches as an adjunct to OEMs’ own ASICs. The BCM15000-series comprises the first of these products to use a 16nm process, performing up to 7.2Gsps (billion searches per second). The introduction will likely allow Broadcom to continue its technology and market leadership in this field, where only Renesas remains a major competitor.

Search coprocessors are typically based on content addressable memories (CAMs)—usually ternary CAMs that serve alongside custom logic or in ASSP search processors. Broadcom gained the KBP family by acquiring NetLogic Microsystems in 2012. At the time, Cavium, Marvell, and XeL Technology tried to enter the market as newcomers, but they were unable to capture significant share. Broadcom and Renesas share nearly all of the market, holding roughly 74% and 25%, respectively; Cavium and XeL accounted for less than 1% of 2015 sales.

ASICs and ASSPs that embed smaller TCAMs have soured several vendors on the standalone-search-engine market. Broadcom sees a sustained need for fast and deep table searches, however, and expects the BCM15k family will be a natural adjunct to the StrataDNX products it unveiled in 4Q16.

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