Broadcom Scales White Box With Tomahawk 3

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By: Michael Vizard

Broadcom (AVGO) today announced a new generation of white-box switches based on a Stratus XGS Tomahawk 3 Switch Series of processors, which could have a substantial impact on the rate at which application workloads are deployed in web-scale environments such as public clouds in 2018.

The StrataXGS Tomahawk 3 Switch Series, which Broadcom has just started sampling, will enable switches capable of throughput speeds of 12.8 Terabits/sec, according to Rochan Sankar, senior director of marketing for switch products at Broadcom. That level of performance is expected to spur adoption of 100-400 gigabit (G) Ethernet white-box switches based on commercial silicon.

White Boxes for Serverless Compute

Those white boxes in turn will make it practical to deploy everything from applications such as storage networking fabrics using NVM Express (NVMe) to serverless computing frameworks based on event-driven architectures and new classes of neural networking applications based on deep learning algorithms. Why is that? The new silicon provides enough network throughput to support them, says Sankar.

"Networking is the bottleneck," says Sankar.

Rather than wait on providers of commercial switches to incorporate next-generation processors, Sankar says Broadcom is betting that web-scale service providers will continue to rely on custom white box switches or build their own switches using 16-nanometer commercial silicon that reduces power consumption by 40 percent and overall costs by as much 75 percent.

Ramping Cloud Connection Speed

The network speeds that cloud service providers will be able to attain in the coming year are likely to have a profound impact on where next-generation applications get deployed. It's unlikely internal IT organizations will be able to deploy switches to handle as much as 200G or 400G Ethernet before the end of the decade. That suggests that many developers will opt to deploy their applications in public clouds to take advantage of both faster networks and the latest generation of compute engines. 

Broadcom's Sankar notes that it’s only been 10 months since Broadcom released the previous generation of the Tomahawk series, which means that Broadcom is now delivering processor advances at a rate that exceeds Moore's Law. If more workloads than ever continue to move into the public cloud, that also implies demand for switches and servers inside a local datacenter is likely to become constrained even further.

It may take awhile for cloud service providers to put next-generation network switches in place. But in terms of being able to keep pace with the raw compute and networking horsepower available in public clouds, 2018 is already shaping up to be a make or break year for many internal IT organizations.