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Cisco Debuts 12.8Tbps Switch Chips

November 24, 2020

Author: Bob Wheeler

Just 10 months after unveiling its initial Silicon One product, Cisco revealed the true breadth of its merchant switch-chip thrust. In late 2019, it announced the 16nm Q100 in conjunction with the first system to use it, the Cisco 8000-Series router. At that time, however, it already had 7nm chips in its lab. Last month, it announced the Q200 family of 7nm switch and router chips, which span 3.2Tbps to 12.8Tbps bandwidths. Cisco expects to qualify the first Q200-series devices for production next month. Whereas the 10.8Tbps Q100 handles an awkward 27x400Gbps Ethernet ports, the Q200 family follows the familiar powers-of-two port scaling of merchant data-center switch chips.

The top of the line Q200 is a 12.8Tbps chip with High Bandwidth Memory (HBM) for deep packet buffers as well as forwarding-table expansion. Whereas the Q200 is intended for routing, the derivative Q200L targets web-scale switching and omits HBM, relying on just internal memories. Both versions include 256x50Gbps PAM4 serdes to handle up to 32x400GbE, 128x100GbE, or 256x50GbE ports. The 6.4Tbps Q201/Q201L models have 256x25Gbps NRZ serdes and omit 400GbE capability. The Q202/Q202L rounds out the line with 128x25Gbps serdes delivering 3.2Tbps of bandwidth.

Silicon One stands out with a unified architecture across routing and switching, whereas Broadcom serves web-scale customers primarily using its Jericho and Tomahawk lines, respectively, for those applications. Cisco’s design is programmable through the P4 network programming language, which Intel also supports with its Barefoot Tofino switch chips. Cisco claims web-scale customers can achieve considerable power savings when they deploy Q200-based systems throughout their networks. In particular, available top-of-rack (ToR) switches employ chips built in 16nm or even 28nm technologies, so using 7nm Q202L devices instead could bring major power savings.

Subscribers can view the full article in the Microprocessor Report.

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