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Will network processor units live up to their promise?

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Networking technology has been advancing faster than CPU technology in many ways, and this has created a need for new design approaches for chips used in networking settings. The NPU market started small several years ago with a few start-up companies but has since grown and begun to consolidate around several leading vendors. In addition, the technology has matured in terms of programming tools, interfaces, and ecosystems for integrating NPUs into finished products. Network-product design has evolved as network speed, functionality, and complexity have increased. Early networking devices were built with a combination of CPUs, discrete logic, and ASICs. Chip makers subsequently developed NPUs for data-communications equipment as a system on chip (SoC) combining CPUs' programmability and ASICs' speed. NPUs are programmable like a CPU. By enabling carriers to provide many services, NPU integration gives them the opportunity to earn more service-based revenue.

Published in:

Computer  (Volume:37 ,  Issue: 4 )