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We survey recent developments in the design of large-capacity content-addressable memory (CAM). A CAM is a memory that implements the lookup-table function in a single clock cycle using dedicated comparison circuitry. CAMs are especially popular in network routers for packet forwarding and packet classification, but they are also beneficial in a variety of other applications that require high-speed table lookup. The main CAM-design challenge is to reduce power consumption associated with the large amount of parallel active circuitry, without sacrificing speed or memory density. In this paper, we review CAM-design techniques at the circuit level and at the architectural level. At the circuit level, we review low-power matchline sensing techniques and searchline driving approaches. At the architectural level we review three methods for reducing power consumption.
Date of Publication: March 2006