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Switch fabrics are a principal building block in networking and communications platforms, but the growing use of merchant fabric silicon for diverse market segments is making it increasingly challenging to evaluate and compare the various product offerings. Current fabric selection methodology involves complex comparisons of speeds and feeds using limited data that switch-fabric vendors provide. This data is commonly based on idealistic traffic patterns and environmental parameters suited to a vendor-specific architecture rather than real-world, application-oriented scenarios that stress fabric implementations. To address this problem, the Network Processing Forum has launched a task group to develop a standard fabric benchmarking framework and suite of performance test benches that provide system OEMs with open, objective, and verifiable results while enabling fabric vendors to leverage their core intellectual property. The task group is focusing on traffic modeling, performance metrics, and actual test benches. Although the emphasis is on switches specifically pertaining to Internet-based platforms, the same framework is applicable to storage area networks and other switching applications.
Date of Publication: Oct. 2003