IHS Markit has forecasted that merchant silicon shipped in DC Ethernet switches will reach 63% of all units shipped in CY22, proprietary/custom silicon to top 30%, and programmable silicon to account for 7%.

Broadcom is the undisputed leader in merchant silicon; its chips are present in all segments of the market from general purpose and purpose-built to bare metal switches, and in all port speeds from 1GE to 400GE. “Proprietary or custom silicon vendors are mainly traditional switch vendors, but many are expanding their portfolios to include non-proprietary 3rd party commodity silicon", says Devan Adams, MBA, principal analyst, cloud and data center switching, IHS Markit.

Merchant silicon continues to see increased adoption from white box and traditional switch vendors who used to primarily deploy their own custom silicon. For example,

  • Cisco announced its Nexus 9300 series and 3400 series DC switches. The former will use its proprietary Cloud Scale ASICs while the latter includes merchant silicon; both will have 400GE models.
  • Juniper introduced its QFX10003 switch, which will use its proprietary ZX ASICs, and its QFX5220 switch, based on Broadcom merchant silicon; both will offer 400GE speeds.

Arista presented two 400GE switches: the 7060PX4 and 7060DX4, designed for hyperscale and enterprise data center networks; both models use Broadcom’s Tomahawk 3 merchant silicon.

We forecast bare metal switches to reach 30% of ports shipped in CY22, up from 16% in CY17. Bare metal switch shipments will continue their long-term growth as hyperscale and tier 2 cloud service providers (CSPs), telcos adopting NFV, and large enterprises deploy a diverse mix of bare metal switches with merchant data plane silicon from Broadcom or programmable chips from Cavium and/or Barefoot Networks.

“Branded bare metal switches with Broadcom silicon offering 10GE+ port speeds are proving to be a credible alternative to traditional switches; plus, telcos deploying NFV are increasing their adoption of bare metal switches as they transform their networks to include mini-DCs in their central offices,” said Adams.

More Data Center Network Market Highlights

  • 3Q18, data center (DC) Ethernet switch revenue reached $2.98B, up 3% YoY, and ports reached 14.9M, up 10% YoY
  • Software-defined enterprise WAN revenue increased 23% QoQ from 2Q18
  • 3Q18 ADC revenue increased 2% QoQ from 2Q18 and decreased 3% YoY from 3Q17