EDA design win; Mentor’s emulator used by Barefoot Networks for its 6.5Tbps switch

July 21, 2016 // By Graham Prophet
Mentor Graphics has disclosed that its Veloce emulation platform was used by Barefoot Networks, a pioneer in building user-programmable and high-performance network switches, to verify its 6.5Tbps Tofino switch.

Barefoot chose the Veloce emulation platform, Mentor says, for its high capacity, virtualization technology, remote access option and track record in networking design verification.


Barefoot Networks is a recent Silicon Valley SDN – software-defined networking – startup that has attracted attention and funding; it describes its proposition as comprising three parts: first, ‘Tofino’, the “world’s fastest switch silicon, that happens also to be programmable”; second, P4, an open source programming language used to write programs for Tofino, and designed clean-sheet for the SDN problem; third, Capilano, the compilers and development tools needed to compile and

debug programs to run on Tofino.


Here’s what Rick Merritt, Silicon Valley Bureau Chief, EE Times, reported on the silicon; Barefoot’s high-end Tofino chip can accommodate flexible configurations of up to 64 100Gbit Ethernet media access controllers or more, slower MACs. It handles all routing functions through Layer 4, assigning one pipeline to every 16 MACs.

In general, SDN processors quickly read packet headers and take actions on them. The chips are “dominated by I/O and memory with a single shared memory buffer and a set of pipelines, so they are very uniform,” said founder and CEO Martin Izzard.

The startup won’t describe just what’s inside the pipelines in terms of look-up tables, packet processors and traffic managers, nor will it give size, power consumption or cost figures for the chip. However it did say it is on par with existing merchant chips. Thus Barefoot’s low-end chip, which handles 32 MACs, should roughly compare to Broadcom’s Tomahawk switch, released in September 2014.

The Tofino chips use both SRAM and TCAM memories. They are made in a 16nm process and can be cooled with standard heat sinks and fans.

There’s no price premium for our level of programmability, which makes it easy to choose this device,” said Ed Doe, who heads up product marketing for Barefoot.

Barefoot designed two systems to demonstrate the