NPF Adds Four Software IAs

New Network Processing Forum Implementation Agreements enable the reuse of software interfaces across multiple networking platforms

October 1, 2003

4 Min Read

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Communications Design Conference 2003 -- The Network Processing Forum (NPF) today announced the availability of the MPLS Forwarding Service Application Programming Interfaces (API) with Diffserv and TE Extensions Implementation Agreement (IA), the IPv6 Unicast Forwarding Service API IA, the Packet Handler API IA and version 2.0 of the Software API Conventions IA. These specification's were unveiled during the "Network Processing Forum: Standards Update" session of the Network Processing Track at CDC 2003. Broad implementation of these API's by network processing component manufacturers and software developers will accelerate the adoption of network processing technologies by networking equipment manufacturers. Standard interfaces such as these will lower costs and speed products to market by increasing the availability of compatible software solutions and expanding interface re-use across multiple platforms.

All four Implementation Agreements are available for free on the NPF web site at

"These API's will enable designers at System OEMs to choose the control plane software components that best fit their requirements and maximize their competitive advantage," said Lars Petersen, board member of the NPF. "We are very pleased with the progress that the Software Working Group has made in the development of key software API's that build upon the NPF Software Framework that was originally adopted in 2002."

All four software IA's support the mission of the software working group to define and deliver open software interfaces that permit integration between multiple software applications and network processing elements. Each IA provides a vendor neutral, industry specification for networking OEMs, software vendors and component providers to implement in system designs supporting the target functionality.

About the MPLS Forwarding Service APIs with Diffserv and TE Extensions IA The NPF MPLS Forwarding Services API provides an open and generic interface for control plane software components to configure and manage the forwarding plane elements of the MPLS layer. MPLS is a function that is ideally suited to be implemented on network processors and this IA will greatly simplify the task network equipment vendors face designing and implementing MPLS on such devices. The IA highlights the key MPLS structures that are required to be implemented in the forwarding plane and provides a vendor neutral API for control plane stacks such as LDP and RSVP-TE to configure and manage this MPLS information.

About the IPv6 Unicast Forwarding Services API IA
The IPv6 API describes a vendor-neutral programming interface to configure and manage any IPv6 Forwarding Information Base (FIB). The specification provides an interface to configure and manage address resolution tables and it includes unified and discrete mode versions similar to those found in the IPv4 Forwarding Services API announced earlier this year.

Once these API's are implemented, the performance of the network processor-based systems executing these functions can easily be measured with the MPLS Forwarding Benchmark IA or the NPF IP Forwarding Benchmark IA. Both benchmarks enable design engineers to compare the performance of the various MPLS and IPv6 Unicast Forwarding Service API implementations with open, objective and reproducible tests.

About the Packet Handler API IA
The Packet Handler API outlines an open interface specification that facilitates the transfer of packets between the data plane forwarding elements and control plane applications for control or exception path processing. Control plane applications such as signaling stacks can use this API to send and receive packets from network processing elements. The IA can easily interface with existing networking stack implementations and has a set of interfaces that provide basic packet transfer capabilities.

About Version 2.0 of the Software API Conventions IA
The Software API conventions document dictates the conceptual and documentation conventions used within all API specifications produced by the NPF Software Working Group. This revision supersedes the original document that was published in September of 2002. The key revisions include enabling support for optional functions, improving event notification, support for lost or duplicated callbacks, and clarifying the instructions related to multi-vendor and multi-instance interoperability.

"Prior to the NPF standard API's, proprietary implementations were needed by systems OEMs, network processing unit (NPU) manufacturers and software stack vendors," said Vinoj Kumar, NPF software working group chair. "These NPF implementation agreements and industry accepted interfaces establish a common reference that will lead to multi-vendor interoperability, faster systems development and reuse."

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