Net Processors Reach the Mainstream

Sales still aren't huge, but network processors have cemented their place in networking design, according to the latest report from Heavy Reading, Light Reading's paid research arm.

"Network Processors: A Heavy Reading Competitive Analysis," released today, tallies the network processor market at $150 million for 2004. It's not an enormous figure, but it's a nice surge from $60 million in 2003, and it appears likely that the market will continue growing.

"With most [network processor] vendors reporting significant design wins, especially at 2.5-Gbit/s and below, the market will continue to grow through 2005," writes Simon Stanley, Heavy Reading analyst at large and the report's author.

A network processor is a linecard chip that digs into IP packets (or Ethernet packets or ATM cells) and extracts the key information needed to forward the packet to the proper destination. Systems vendors traditionally have built their own ASICs for this function. The point behind the network processor was to create an off-the-shelf alternative that could give the OEM a headstart.

Most OEMs resisted the idea at first, but the chips have elevated beyond niche status to a point where a "majority" of OEMs use them in at least one product, according to the report.

The original network processor business model was to target upstart equipment vendors, and to that end, it's no surprise that Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. has been using the devices (see Huawei Chip Deal: Who's Got It?). But other customers have included established names such as Alcatel (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) and even Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), according to the report. (Of course, Cisco projects such as the CRS-1 core router still rely on ASICs.)

Network processors are applicable to just about any type of equipment, but so far they've found the most use at the carrier edge, the report says. And while 10-Gbit/s parts are readily available, sub-2.5-Gbit/s applications still claim the largest share of per-port shipments.

The report covers four types of processors: 2.5-Gbit/s and 10-Gbit/s parts; control-plane processors; and communications processors. Vendors covered include:

For further information, or to order the report, click here.

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

Independent analyst John Metz, who was among the early believers in network processors, was recently diagnosed with colorectal cancer. A benevolent fund has been set up in John's name. Those interested in contributing may send checks to:
      John G. Metz Fund
      c/o Crystal Cube Consulting
      381 Shepards Lane
      Camano Island, WA 98282
Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 3:23:39 AM
re: Net Processors Reach the Mainstream We are sorry to report John Metz passed away in Harvard, Mass., on March 11.

Metz was a Cabletron vet who spent the last few years as an analyst following ICs and ATCA. But many of us will remember him as a good-hearted guy who was always willing to check out new, interesting music.

For a time, Crystal Cube Consulting will continue accepting funds to help John's family with expenses. More information here: http://www.crystalcubeconsulti...
caronis 12/5/2012 | 3:21:37 AM
re: Net Processors Reach the Mainstream Many of us had the opportunity, the privelege, to meet and work with John Metz during his travels through the networking industry. And, more importantly, many of us were John's friends.

I met John Metz on my first day working at Strategic Networks, my first job in the networking industry. It was also John's first day, though he had many more rings on the proverbial "tree" than I in this business. I was immediately paired up with John, and he began to show me the ropes of the business as we worked on several projects together. Anyone who knew John knew the smile below the mustache, and the patented "heh heh" laugh, with his fingers pointing at the source of amusement. And, as sarcastic and witty as John was, he knew when to cut you some slack. I can remember my first experience with this when, after receiving our first teamed assigment at SN, I sheepishly asked John "what's a white paper?".

My thoughts and prayers go out to John's family, and I encourage anyone who had the opportunity to know John, or just to meet him, to contribute to the John G. Metz Fund.
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