Broadcom Corp. Wednesday did its part to help lower the cost of 10 Gigabit Ethernet when it launched a new multilayer switch chip.
The BCM5673 chip integrates Layer 2 through Layer 7 switching and routing functions in silicon and supports the emerging 10GBASE-CX4 copper wiring standard for 10 Gigabit Ethernet at a tenth of the cost of existing multichip offerings, according to Eric Hayes, product line manager in San Jose, Calif.
"What it takes to build a 10 Gigabit Ethernet port today requires a front-end MAC [Media Access Control] chip, network processor, traffic manager, fabric interface chip and so on," Hayes said. "Pull a line card with 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports and you will see dozens of large, expensive chips. We have all that functionality built in a single 5673."
The bill of materials cost to build an eight-port 10 Gigabit Ethernet module with Broadcoms new chip is $300, compared with todays more typical cost of $3,000, he said.
Today the lowest cost per port for 10 Gigabit Ethernet is about $17,000, although that can range up to $60,000 per port.
Although Hayes predicted that the new chip could be used to create much lower cost switches by the middle of next year, industry observers dont believe such a fast ramp will happen.
"Theyre putting the pieces in place for the eventual ramp in the market, but it wont happen tomorrow," said Peter Middleton, communication semiconductor analyst at Gartner Inc., in San Jose, Calif.
Gartner is not projecting an uptick in the 10 Gigabit Ethernet market until the 2005 or 2006 time frame, Middleton added.
While the new chip will allow manufacturers to build 24- and 48-port Gigabit Ethernet switches with multiple 10 Gigabit Ethernet interfaces in a small 1U form factor, it does not address other factors that keep the cost of 10 Gigabit Ethernet high.
"Their cost advantages are based on the semiconductor in the switch, but the sizable cost is in the optical interface," Middleton said.
Samples of the new chip are available now, but production quantities are not expected until the fourth quarter. Still, Hayes maintained that the industry could see switches based on the new chip by the middle of 2004.
"You will see vendors start to introduce these products in mid-2004 at price points that will knock the socks off people," he said.