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Server-based networks have well-documented performance limitations. These limitations outline a major goal of Intel's embedded transport acceleration (ETA) project, the ability to deliver high-performance server communication and I/O over standard Ethernet and transmission control protocol/Internet protocol (TCP/IP) networks. By developing this capability, Intel hopes to take advantage of the large knowledge base and ubiquity of these standard technologies. With the advent of 10 gigabit Ethernet, these standards promise to provide the bandwidth required of the most demanding server applications. We use the term packet processing engine (PPE) as a generic term for the computing and memory resources necessary for communication-centric processing. Such PPEs have certain desirable attributes; the ETA project focuses on developing PPEs with such attributes, which include scalability, extensibility, and programmability. General-purpose processors, such as the Intel Xeon in our prototype, are extensible and programmable by definition. Our results show that software partitioning can significantly increase the overall communication performance of a standard multiprocessor server. Specifically, partitioning the packet processing onto a dedicated set of compute resources allows for optimizations that are otherwise impossible when time sharing the same compute resources with the operating system and applications.