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Modern programmable logic devices have capabilities that are well suited for them to assume a central role in the holistic implementation of networked systems. We have devised a highly flexible soft platform architecture abstracted from such physical devices, which may be viewed as a particularly configurable and programmable type of network processor. In this paper, we discuss a programming model for the architecture, and present an XML-based description language for expressing the programming information. This intermediate language is designed both to be an attractive compilation target for domain-specific languages used for describing networking applications, and also to have efficient mappings to programmable logic devices, harnessing to the full their high degree of concurrency, interconnectivity and programmability. We present a detailed example, where a high-speed remote procedure call (RPC) protocol server for gigabit Ethernet was described directly in the XML-based language, and automatically compiled to a working implementation on a platform FPGA device. The exercise was carried out by a non-hardware expert in only two weeks, thus demonstrating the unlocking of access to programmable logic technology.