Technology – Broadcom Switch Support

Broadcom® provides semiconductor and software solutions for a wide range of applications.
One of the areas where Broadcom has had a leading position for many years is in Ethernet Switch technology. The semiconductor and software solutions for Ethernet switching cover a wide range of applications and finding your way amongst all the options is not always easy.

AimValley helps you make that choice.

Ethernet Switch Components

To build a complete Ethernet switch, the following key components are required:

Switch Silicon

Processes and forwards Ethernet packets between the ports of a switch. This is a very complex function, as the packets need to be processed at wire speed. Well-known vendors of switch silicon are Broadcom, Marvell®, Microsemi®, and Realtek®, but for some applications, FPGA-based solutions are also possible. Some devices are limited to Ethernet switching (Layer 2 or L2), other devices are suitable for IP routing (Layer 3 or L3).

Management Processor

Most Ethernet switches can be configured by the user or an operator using a management interface, for example a graphical interface or command-line interface. Some switches also need to support specific protocols which are implemented in software as wire-speed processing is not needed for these protocols. Hence a processor is needed to support this function. Some switch silicon already includes a processor, in most cases ARM-based. For other switch silicon, an external processor is required.

Power over Ethernet Power Supply

Some Ethernet switches cannot only process Ethernet packets received on the Ethernet cable but can also power remote equipment using the same cable. For example a Power over Ethernet (PoE) switch can provide power to a remote security camera using the same cable as used for receiving the video stream.

Block Diagram Ethernet Switch

Ethernet PHYs

Sending and receiving Ethernet frames on the Ethernet cable, handling the physical layer of the transmission. Depending on the type of Ethernet connection, a different PHY is required, for example, the CAT5E cabling which uses 4 pairs of wires, requires a different PHY than Single Pair Ethernet (SPE), which uses (as the name suggests), a single pair of wires. Some switch silicon has built-in PHYs.

Broadcom® Switch Silicon

Broadcom’s portfolio consists of three families of generic Ethernet switch silicon, each focused on a specific application area:

  • RoboSwitch™ Family
  • StrataDNX™ Family
  • StrataXGS™ Family​

The RoboSwitch family is targeting lower-end switches, supporting mainly Fast Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet, but some devices support up to 10G interface speeds for uplinks. Total switching capacity ranges from 2 to 39 Gb/s. Some devices have built in PHYs and processors to allow a cost effective solution with few external components. Some devices also support a limited set of TSN features.

For relatively simple applications and switches, focused on FE and GbE, the RoboSwitch family is the default choice.

For more advanced applications, f.e. if TSN support is required, another family or vendor is probably a better choice.

Management
Using RoboOS, a Broadcom software package, for web based management of this family only.

Device Names
RoboSwitch, RoboSwitch2, Avenger.

Number Format
BCM53nn, BCM53nnn.

The StrataDNX family is the highest end family, supporting flexibility and programmability and a switching capacity from 120 Gb/s to 14.4 Tb/s and up to 144 external interfaces of 50Gb/s.

Note that these 50Gb/s interfaces are typically combined to create a higher speed optical Ethernet interface, for example: by using a QSFP-DD optical module, 8 of these 50 Gb/s are combined to create a 400Gb/s optical interface.

Access to support and software for this family is restricted by Broadcom as the devices are targeted to a selected set of high end customers.

Management
For some devices, using Broadcom Open Network Switch APIs (OpenNSA), Broadcom’s BroadView™or OpenFlow Data Plane Abstraction (OF-DPA).

Device Names
Qumran and Jericho

Number Format
BCM88nnn.


The StrataXGS family has similar switching capacity as the DNX family, ranging from
160 Gb/s to 25.6 Tb/s but is more focusing on high integration compared to DNX. This family has a lot of different devices. A lower-end device is the Foxhound for L2 switches with up to 24 interfaces for 1 Gb/s, 10 Gb/s and 25 Gb/s interfaces.
The Tomahawk devices are the high-end members, supporting up to 256 interfaces of 100 Gb/s and consuming 450 Watt!!

Management
Usually done using the Broadcom SDK or with Broadcom’s FASTPATH®, selected devices are supported by Broadcom’s Software Development Kit Logical Table (SDKLT), Broadcom Open Network Switch APIs (OpenNSA), Broadcom’s BroadViewe or OpenFlow Data Plane Abstraction (OF-DPA).

Device Names
Tomahawk, Trident, Maverick, Firebolt, Huricane, Montery, Metrolite, Saber, Greyhound, Wolfhound, ElkHound, Bloodhound and Quartz.

Number Format
BCM53nnn for L2 and L3-lite devices and BCM56nnn for full L3 devices.

AimValley Expertise

AimValley is an expert in Ethernet Switch development and specifically in Broadcom-based development using both RoboSwitch and StrataXGS silicon.
A few examples of projects successfully completed are:

  • Carrier Class Ethernet switch in 19inch form factor with hot standby switch matrix and pluggable interface units, based on StrataXGS and AimOS software.
  • Ethernet switch for defense market based on StrataXGS and FASTPATH software.
  • Backplane with active Ethernet switching based on RoboSwitch2 and AimOS Robo.
  • Ethernet Vehicle Gateway Switch

Unique to AimValley is, the in-house developed AimOS, a software stack that can be used to quickly develop an L2 or L3 system based on any vendor’s silicon. AimValley has a license agreement with Broadcom for the RoboOS and StrataXGS SDK allowing a quick start of your project without the need to worry about license agreements.

AimOS shortens time-to-market for Ethernet switch development

AimValley also has the hardware expertise required to develop Custom Ethernet Switches ranging from 4 port, 10 Mbit/s Single Pair Ethernet Switches to 800 Gb/s FPGA based Ethernet analyzer cards.

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