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Programmable packet processors have replaced traditional fixed-function custom logic in the data path of routers. Programmability of these systems allows the introduction of new packet processing functions, which is essential for today's Internet as well as for next-generation network architectures. Software development for many existing implementations of these network processors requires a deep understanding of the architecture and careful resource management by the software developer. Resource management that is tied to application development makes it difficult for packet processors to adapt to changes in the workload that are based on traffic conditions and the deployment of new functionality. Therefore, we present a network processor design that separates programming from resource management, which simplifies the software development process and improves the system's ability to adapt to network conditions. Based on our initial system design, we present a prototype implementation of a 4-core network processor using the NetFPGA platform. We demonstrate the operation of the system using header-processing and payload-processing applications. For packet forwarding, our simplified network processor can achieve a throughput of 2.79 Gigabits per second at a clock rate of only 62.5 MHz. Our results indicate the proposed design can scale to configurations with many more processors that operate at much higher clock rates and thus can achieve considerable higher throughput while using modest amounts of hardware resources.
Date of Conference: 13-16 June 2010