The argument over which is a better way to go, Merchant vs. Custom Silicon, has been going on for some time. Those in the custom camp often argue that custom designed ASICs and supporting chips lead to a more focused product and better, faster, stronger products. These products typically cost more as well. On the other hand, those in the Merchant Silicon camp say that building a chip requires specific skills that is best left to those whose core business focuses on that. By using merchant silicon they can focus their monies and efforts on the networking device they are producing. We’ve seen a number of companies focus their efforts in this area. Who? Cumulus Networks comes to mind and their not alone.
Who Uses Merchant Silicon?
There are many today using merchant silicon. Pluribus Networks, Cumulus Networks, Arista, Pica8, and Big Switch Networks are all using merchant silicon. In fact, Cisco is using Trident 2 chipsets in the Nexus 9000.
Which Is Better?
I suppose the best thing to say here is that by examining the industry direction, including what the top networking vendors are using, you’ll find that merchant silicon has definitely found its place in the world. The use of merchant silicon is only going to continue to increase with the onset of new startup networking companies and the custom chipsets will continue to fade out of the picture.