LSI touts ARM-based chips to boost networks, save power

Chipmaker LSI is hoping to improve networking performance and flexibility with its ARM-based Axxia 4500 processor family, announced Monday.

ARM-based processors are best known for powering smartphones and tablets. But the British company's technology will also be used in next-generation switches and routers for enterprises and data centers, if LSI is successful.

The Axxia 4500 processor family are based on up to four ARM Cortex-A15 cores and use ARM's new CoreLink CCN-504 interconnect, which can prioritize time-sensitive traffic and offers up to one terabit of usable system bandwidth per second, according to ARM. The Cortex-A15 is ARM's most powerful processor to date, and is used in products like the Nexus 10 tablet from Google and Samsung Electronics and the Galaxy S4.

LSI's Axxia processors have been based on PowerPC processors in the past, but the move to ARM will bring better performance while keeping power consumption in check, according to LSI.

A key part of the design is LSI's own accelerators, which in this case are used to make the processors a better fit for software-defined networking. The accelerators in the Axxia 4500 processors can offload SDN communication protocols such as OpenFlow from the CPUs running the control software.

The Axxia 4500 processors include up to 100G bps of layer 2 switching capacity to reduce board space and bill of material costs, as well.

But ARM-based processors won't move into the enterprise and datacenter overnight. LSI will begin sampling the Axxia 4500 during the fourth quarter this year. Sampling means the company sends early versions of the processor to potential partners. The company didn't detail when the Axxia 4500 will show up in commercially available switches and routers.

The use of ARM-based processors in servers is unlikely to take off until the company has a 64-bit offering, which ARM is expected to have next year.

LSI is showing off its networking portfolio at the Open Networking Summit, which takes place between April 15 and 17 in Santa Clara.

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