The need for higher layer processing in network equipment to implement flexible devices such as Load Balancers, Web Switches and deep packet processing for security applications has led to the creation of the Network Processor. These must be capable of processing packet data at wire-speed, which creates new challenges not previously seen in processor design. Many varied and innovative approaches have been taken to overcome these obstacles.

This white paper firstly discusses the applications for Network Processors, elaborating this into some fundamental requirements of such devices. Secondly, the trade-offs in Network Processor design are discussed. Finally, a number of architectural approaches are described in the context of how well they perform in packet processing applications and the limitations each have. The implications on the adopted programming model are also discussed.

For more information on network processors, visit Calyptech’s Web site.