Broadcom Unveils ARM-Based SoCs for 802.11ac Networks

Broadcom’s latest StrataGX chips bring greater processing power, energy efficiency and security over current offerings, officials said.

Broadcom officials later this year will release a new series of chips aimed at bringing greater performance, energy efficiency and security to enterprise access points that are under siege from the growing number of mobile devices and cloud-based applications hitting the networks.

The new StrataGX BCM58522 Series of systems-on-a-chip (SoCs) will be optimized for 5G WiFi 802.11ac, will offer 10 times the processing power of current chips and will include new cryptographic capabilities that will not only offer greater security but also improved performance and bandwidth over virtual private networks (VPNs), according to Broadcom officials.

At the same time, Broadcom also unveiled the BCM58525 Series SoCs for small and midsize businesses (SMBs) and enterprise networks aimed at helping networks handle SMB cloud-based services such as video conferencing, collaboration and surveillance and to reduce power consumption.

The announcements were made May 7 during the Interop 2013 show in Las Vegas. Both SoCs are sampling now, with general availability scheduled for the fourth quarter, and reference designs that include both SoCs series are available now.

Enterprise networks are under increasing pressure, according to Maury Wood, senior product line manager of Broadcom’s Compute and Connectivity unit. There’s increasing endpoint diversification and the growth of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) is creating significant security holes, Wood told eWEEK.

Networks also are being asked to process massive amounts of data from disparate sources.

“There is a data overload,” Wood said.

Networks need to be faster and more secure, he said, adding that Broadcom’s new SoCs are designed to enable such capabilities. The dual-core StrataGX SoCs are based on ARM’s chip Cortex-A9 architecture and can be embedded in enterprise access points, bringing high-performance WiFi capabilities to such large venues as stadiums and convention centers, according to Broadcom.

The SoCs include integrated dual-core ARM CPUs, an Ethernet switch, accelerator engines, high-speed I/O and memory interfaces. Using the ARM architecture goes a long way in reducing power consumption by as much as 80 percent over current offerings, according to Wood.

“We’re seeing a lot of momentum toward ARM, especially at the lower end of the board, which is what we’re attacking here,” he said. “We’re careful about keeping a balance between performance and power efficiency.”

Given the increasing security concerns brought on by such trends as BYOD, the integrated hardware cryptographic accelerators are important, Wood said. Enterprises use VPNs to help mobile and remote workers securely access the network, but doing so results in a performance hit. The new cryptography engine helps accelerate the encryption and decryption needed by VPNs, improving performance.

Broadcom’s Linux Development Kit and reference designs and its use of open software tools will help customers reduce engineering and time-to-market, according to the company.

Chips and networking vendors are continuing to introduce offerings that support the 5G 802.11ac WiFi standard. Wood said the standard is popping up in gear for consumer and desktop products this year, but will really start coming to enterprises and service providers in the early part of 2014.

Most recently, Cisco Systems last month expanded its portfolio of wireless products that support 802.11ac WiFi through modules for the company’s Aironet 3600 Series access point.

Broadcom is making an effort to get into the space as early as possible. “Incumbency is a big deal in a situation like this,” Wood said. “You really are stronger if you get there in the first wave.”