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Broadcom First With 200Gbps NIC

September 11, 2018

Author: Bob Wheeler

Broadcom is first to sample Ethernet adapters for new 50Gbps-per-lane standards, including 50GbE and 200GbE. The NICs use the new Thor controller chip, the company’s third-generation NetXtreme-E design. The PAM4-based network ports work with switch systems that support the new Ethernet standards, such as those based on Broadcom’s Tomahawk 3 or Innovium’s Teralynx. By moving from 25Gbps NRZ to 50Gbps PAM4, Thor doubles the bandwidth per lane in a server connection, reducing the cost of 50GbE and 100GbE ports while offering 200GbE for the first time.

The controller chip enables new NetXtreme-E adapters including the P2100G PCIe NIC with dual 200Gbps ports and the M1100G OCP mezzanine Type II adapter with a single 100Gbps port. It builds on Stratus, Broadcom’s 100GbE controller, which achieved first customer shipments in 4Q17. Like its predecessor, Thor handles the RoCE protocol for low-latency networks. It’s Broadcom’s first to enable PCIe Gen4, which is supported by IBM’s Power9 servers as well as AMD’s next-generation Epyc processors (code-named Rome).

Mellanox’s ConnectX-6 EN is the only an­nounced 200GbE competitor, and it reached customers shortly after Broadcom’s new NICs. The two competi­tors offer similar features for mainstream data-center applications. The companies already com­pete in 25GbE NICs; Broadcom gained share in 2017, eating into Mel­lanox’s early lead. The “Super 7” cloud-service providers will be early adopters of 50Gbps-per-lane adapters, pairing them with switches that enable 400GbE leaf-spine architectures.

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