Comms chips

NPF Tackles Services API

LAS VEGAS -- Networld+Interop -- Network processor vendors say they've taken a critical step forward in standards with today's release of the Network Processing Forum's first application programming interface (API) for services, targeting unicast IPv4.

An API defines the nitty-gritty details of communicating with hardware or software, outlining the format of signals and the expected response to particular events. In the case of IPv4, the current iteration of the mainstream Internet Protocol, the NPF's work defines how to use any IPv4 protocol stack with any network processor. The hope is that this will speed up systems design by allowing OEMs to use an arbitrary network processor with their existing software and protocol stacks.

The NPF says this is the first of a series of APIs that target services and aren't just aimed at a specific type of hardware or software. The forum picked IPv4 because it's ubiquitous and stands as a prerequisite for other services. APIs are in the works for DiffServ, MPLS, and IPv6, and there's still a slate of software- and hardware-related APIs in the works.

The NPF was created in 2000, the marriage of two ad-hoc forums that were trying to develop network processor standards. A key goal is to create APIs and standards for hardware, software, services, and benchmarking -- all directed at making it easier for OEMs to embrace network processors.

The NPF uses a decentralized process, with separate API task forces working without a formal set of priorities or deadlines, making it hard to say which API will come out next. The NPF had been more aggressive at first, but its members are under the strain of layoffs and company closures, which pushes API work down in priority.

"It's hard to put a schedule behind this because we are a volunteer organization," says Chuck Sannipoli, an NPF board member and a vice president at IP Infusion Inc.

The NPF has hammered out some standards related to hardware and benchmarking, but progress has been slower in the services realm. That's partly because the services API work had to wait for the NPF's definition of a general software framework, which was completed last fall.

Future services APIs should move a bit faster, now that the NPF's done a run-through, Sannipoli says. "This helped us determine how the forum was going to support all the competing demands placed by platform vendors, by silicon vendors, and so on."

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

rjmcmahon 12/5/2012 | 12:08:17 AM
re: NPF Tackles Services API The adoption of NPU technology never happened and is not likely to happen in the future.

It's hard to predict the future, though it does seem that if we don't do something about fraudband the majority of tech IO providers will either be forced to take early retirement or will need to move overseas.
BobbyMax 12/5/2012 | 12:08:17 AM
re: NPF Tackles Services API Network Processors had fallen out of favor. In fact many companies, Motorola, and Vittesse with excessive indulgence with network processors have lost a lot of money. The adoption of NPU technology never happened and is not likely to happen in the future.
gea 12/5/2012 | 12:08:11 AM
re: NPF Tackles Services API BobbyMax:

All your base are belong to us.
skeptic 12/5/2012 | 12:08:11 AM
re: NPF Tackles Services API Network Processors had fallen out of favor. The adoption of NPU technology never happened and is not likely to happen in the future.
Why do you bother to spend all day putting up
messages when its clear you know little or
nothing about the industry.
diag_eng 12/5/2012 | 12:08:03 AM
re: NPF Tackles Services API Any truth to the rumor IBM is exiting the NPU biz?

edgecore 12/5/2012 | 12:07:56 AM
re: NPF Tackles Services API IBM is out of the old stuff (PowerNP) based NPU's. They are considering coming back into it with standard 405 parts as the control plane core...but I am not 100% sure of what is happening.

IMHO, the pressure is on tier 1 OEM to cost reduce everything...so NPU's have some appeal!

This market is clearly not a big one right now, nor is it close to established. Intel will use all of its desktop Pentium based revenu and outlast all the other players. Then Intel will be in a position that over the course of 10 years may make all this investment worthwhile.


metroshark 12/5/2012 | 12:07:55 AM
re: NPF Tackles Services API So far, the only successful deployment of NPs in a popular networking product that I have seen is the Unisphere box. They have a whole bunch of AMCC fabric and packet processor chips on their forwarding/fabric blades. Of course, I wouldn't be surprised if this blade is replaced with a board with some of the Juniper chips in the near future.

If you look at most other boxes like Juniper M and T series, Cisco GSR and OSR, Redback, Foundry, they all use their own silicon. Alcatel was trying to do a product with IBM NPs but I am not sure if they ever shipped it or how many they shipped. Even new start-ups that seemed to have survived so far are doing their own chips, like Procket, Vivace, TiMetra and so on.
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