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Broadcom Integrates WLAN Switch

Analysts have long expected the wireless LAN switch to get absorbed into other network appliances, and Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM) is taking a major step in that direction with today's release of Ethernet chips integrating wireless LAN switching.

The chips are the first in Broadcom's new StrataXGS III line of Ethernet switch chips. These devices continue the escalating integration of Ethernet chips, with the largest, the BCM56504, boasting 24 ports of Gigabit Ethernet and four ports of 10-Gbit/s Ethernet. That's a notch higher than the 24 Gigabit Ethernet and three 10-Gbit/s Ethernet ports offered by rival Marvell Technology Group Ltd. (Nasdaq: MRVL), but still less than the 48 ports of Gigabit Ethernet available from Agere Systems Inc. (NYSE: AGR.A). (See Broadcom Unveils StrataXGS III.)

More important than the port count is the inclusion of features such as encryption and denial-of-service blocking. Broadcom is trying to beef up the powers of the ordinary Ethernet switch, much in the same way as Cisco Systems Inc.'s (Nasdaq: CSCO) integrated services routers add support for applications (see Cisco Takes Apps on Board).

Among the most notable features is the inclusion of wireless LAN switching capability. Broadcom sees this as the first step toward absorbing the wireless LAN switch into an Ethernet switch.

"You'll see the same thing that happened to other appliances that became integrated -- load balancers, for example," says Eric Hayes, Broadcom product line manager.

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