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Comms chips

NetLogic Keeps the Layer 7 Pace

Chipmaker NetLogic Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: NETL) is shoring up its Layer 7 processing with a new chip that it says can improve data throughput a line card.

The NLS2008 doesn't speed things up, per se; what's important is that it operates at a predictable rate that won't slow anything down.

NetLogic announced the chip today. It's a descendant of the Layer 7 chips the company first brought out on 2006. (See NetLogic Speeds Layer 7 and NetLogic Makes Its Move.)

NetLogic tends to avoid the phrase "deep packet inspection" (DPI) -- which is understandable, given the way political groups have vilified the term -- but that's essentially what the Layer 7 chip does. The company developed its technology on its own and has even targeted it at the systems companies that are better known for DPI.

"It's safe to assume a handful of them are working with us, and they are showing interest" in the new chip, says Kelvin Khoo, NetLogic's senior director of business development.

A Layer 7 chip performs functions like intrusion detection or bandwidth monitoring by looking up databases of rules -- seeing if packets show signs of being known malware, for instance. Those rules have gotten more complex over time, which can slow down this kind of processing.

NetLogic claims it's gotten around that because of the way it uses hundreds of thousands of small processing engines inside the NLS2008. Regardless of the complexity of the Layer 7 rules, the chip will process packets fast enough to keep pace with a 120-Gbit/s data flow, NetLogic claims.

"Determinism is the key thing here. They don't want to be limited in how they write the rules," Khoo says.

The chip isn't made for a single 120-Gbit/s flow; rather, it's equipped with multiple 10-Gbit/s interfaces. Khoo says NetLogic has ways to put multiple chips on a card to reach speeds beyond 400 Gbit/s, but the company isn't making promises about that yet. "We're comfortable with 120 Gbit/s," he says.

The NLS2008 is set to start sampling by the end of June.

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

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