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Technology – Custom Ethernet Switches

Ethernet technology is used almost everywhere. You will find it for example in internet access routers at home, in every data center rack, and in high-speed backbones of telecom networks.

Obviously, the requirements for the different segments vary, but for many industry segments, the requirements are generic enough to allow the use of commercial off-the-shelf equipment.

However, for some target applications, the requirements are so specific that no generic solution can be used.

“Today, we continued by performing some tests in the EMI chamber. Numerous sweeps were performed (100-200Mhz, 200-800Mhz, 800Mhz - 6Ghz), and we had an extremely satisfying result (Quote of a bystander: "what? that is without a housing? How is that possible?"). Basically, the bare PCB setup passed all DO160G emission tests by itself . …..The lab engineer tipped his hat to your excellent EMI design.”
Customer Feedback
Leading manufacturer of inflight entertainment systems in the aerospace sector

Custom Ethernet Switch Development

A Custom Ethernet Switch Development usually runs through the following phases:


Defines the key requirements, like the number of interfaces, use of Power Over Ethernet (PoE), environmental conditions, and required certification. Also the selection of the silicon (e.g. Broadcom, Marvell, Microsemi, or FPGA based) and the software stack (e.g. AimOS or SONIC) are part of this phase.


Create the schematics of the switch and continue with the layout. Configure the software stack for use on the hardware and develop new parts, e.g. a custom graphical user interface. Design the mechanics such as housing and PCB outline for the new switch.


Create a test plan based on the requirements for the switch and verify hardware, software, and system behavior. Because a custom Ethernet switch typically has a non-standard interface it is important to do Ethernet Compliance testing on all interfaces using dedicated test sets. Also, pre-certification testing may be needed to prepare for the next phase of formal certification, which is costly and therefore should ideally pass the first time.


Samples of the product are provided to an accredited test house to certify the switch against specific industry standards.

Certification can include:
CE, UL/CSA, FDA laser safety, IEC62368 product safety, NEBS (GR-63), and NAVMAT B-1 shock and vibration.


During deployment, production needs to be monitored to maintain product quality. Field returns are investigated to detect potential design or component issues. To prevent sudden end-of-life of critical parts a second source supplier is already identified during the design phase. Alternatively, a small redesign is necessary.

Typical development cycles are 12 to 24 months. The actual duration depends on the possibility to start software development and test before the actual hardware development is completed.
The use of a host environment, which allows testing most functionalities on a standard PC or workstation, or an evaluation board (which has enough commonality with the custom hardware to start software development) is key to shorten the development cycle.
It is also important to start the design process with the certification requirements in mind. This prevents failures during the final certification test which may lead to starting the design process all over again.

Development process: optimized versus standard practice

AimValley Expertise

During all steps of the development of a custom Ethernet switch you can rely on AimValley to support you. Our team of engineers has extensive experience in building custom solutions and has mastered a number of key technologies, like:

  • Hardware design for Ethernet interfaces, ranging from 10 Mbit/s Single Pair Ethernet to 800 Gbs using PAM4 and QSFPDD.
  • Power over Ethernet (POE) design.
  • Design for certifications like CE, UL/CSA, FDA laser safety, IEC62368 product safety, NEBS (GR-63) and NAVMAT B-1 shock and vibration.
  • AimOS, an Ethernet software stack, or Network Operating System with Layer 2 and Layer 3 protocols, supporting o.a. Broadcom® silicon.
  • Experience in supporting SONIC, Broadcom® FastPath, Cap Gemini ISS (previously Aricent ISS) software stacks.
  • Automated test framework for regression testing and use of industry-standard test equipment, a.o. from Xena Networks.

AimValley proven track record

AimValley’s product development can include system verification and robustness testing and solutions are delivered as prototype or for mass production.

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