UPDATED 16:41 EDT / AUGUST 16 2022


Broadcom debuts new high-speed networking chip for data centers

Chipmaker Broadcom Inc. today introduced the StrataXGS Tomahawk 5, a new processor chip designed to power data center switches.

Many enterprise applications are too computationally intensive to run on a single server. As a result, companies often distribute applications across multiple servers. Those machines are linked to one another by a network that they use to exchange data and coordinate their work.

Broadcom’s Tomahawk 5 chip is designed to power switches, devices that play a key role in data center networks. Switches are responsible for moving information between the different systems in a data center. Broadcom’s new chip is optimized for switches that use Ethernet, a collection of hardware and software technologies on which enterprises commonly base their networks.

The Tomahawk 5 is produced using a five-nanometer chip manufacturing process. An Ethernet switch equipped with the chip can process 51.2 terabits of network traffic per second, nearly twice as much as Broadcom’s previous-generation chip. The company says that each Tomahawk 5 is capable of supporting hundreds of network connections. 

“Delivering the world’s first 51.2 Tbps switch two years after we released Tomahawk 4, the industry’s first 25 Tbps switch, is a testament to the outstanding execution and innovation by the Broadcom team,” said Ram Velaga, senior vice president and general manager of Broadcom’s Core Switching Group. “Since the introduction of Tomahawk 1 in 2014, Broadcom has consistently executed on doubling the bandwidth approximately every two years.”

In addition to increasing the chip’s speed, Broadcom has equipped the Tomahawk 5 with several new features.

Each network link in a data center can only transmit a limited amount of information at any given time. If too much information is sent at once, performance issues emerge. According to Broadcom, the Tomahawk 5 includes a feature called Cognitive Routing that automatically routes data traffic through the least congested network links to avoid performance issues. 

Cognitive Routing is joined by a new load balancing capability. Broadcom says that the Tomahawk 5 can detect if a network link experiences technical issues and automatically reroute traffic to other links. As a result, the risk of outages and other technical issues is reduced. 

Data center operators don’t rely solely on their network chips’ built-in features to optimize connections. They often also use specialized algorithms that collect data about network traffic, detect cases where the traffic is traveling slower than it should and automatically correct the issue. According to Broadcom, the Tomahawk 5 makes it easier to collect the data that companies’ network algorithms use to optimize traffic.

Some of the Tomahawk 5’s data collection features are powered by six Arm Ltd. processors that Broadcom has built into the chip. Additionally, Broadcom is offering the chip alongside a set of integrated optical components. The components make it easier to incorporate the chip into optical networks, high-speed networks that transmit data in the form of light rather than electricity as is the usual practice.

Broadcom is a major supplier of chips for networking equipment. Thanks to a series of multibillion-dollar acquisitions made over recent years, the company also has a significant presence in the enterprise software market. Earlier this year, Broadcom inked a $60 billion deal to acquire VMware Inc. in a bid to grow its software business. 

Photo: Broadcom

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