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Nephos Attacks Data-Center Switching

November 7, 2017

Author: Bob Wheeler

A new company backed by MediaTek, Nephos is quietly attacking the market for data-center switch silicon. It will soon qualify for production a 16nm switch family called Taurus that scales to 6.4Tbps, matching the throughput of Broadcom’s Tomahawk 2. This offering follows the 2016 introduction of the company’s first-generation Ethernet switch, Aries. Focusing exclusively on sales to large customers, Nephos has yet to formally announce either of these chips.

The company spun off in 1Q16, but MediaTek maintains a controlling interest. Taking advantage of its parent’s relationship with TSMC, Nephos adopted a novel multidie approach to its Taurus design. Each die implements up to 128x25Gbps serdes for 3.2Tbps of throughput. The company then uses TSMC’s wafer-level fanout (WLFO) to connect two die in a package, forming a 6.4Tbps switch chip. Externally, the NP8369 presents 64 ports of 100G Ethernet, looking much like Tomahawk 2. The single-die NP8367 provides 32x100GbE ports, whereas two derivatives of that chip serve top-of-rack duties with fewer 25GbE or 10GbE ports.

Nephos enters an increasingly crowded space, as both large and small competitors vie for sales to cloud-service providers (CSPs). Impressively, the newcomer will bring Taurus to production shortly after leader Broadcom did with Tomahawk 2. The only other vendor with a 6.4Tbps switch chip in production is startup Barefoot Networks, which offers a highly programmable design. Nephos stands apart from VC-backed startups, however, as its connection to MediaTek provides massive design and manufacturing resources.

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