Startup Claims Processor Breakthrough
The startup is claiming to have reached new highs in packet processing performance. It's set to unveil two chips: the SpeedRouter, which it claims is the industry's first full-duplex OC48 (2.5 Gbit/s) network processor, and a classification engine called the SpeedAnalyzer.
"We offer two- to five-times more processing power per packet, and a reduction in power consumption and device count by five," claims Jeppe Jessen, IP Semiconductors' VP of sales and marketing.
The additional processing capability can be leveraged to perform a "deep-read" of the packet, allowing carriers to offer advanced IP services and charge customers for them (see The Service-Aware Switch).
Bold claims. But do they stand up to scrutiny?
Applied Micro Circuits Corp. (AMCC) (Nasdaq: AMCC), which added network processors to its portfolio when it acquired MMC Networks, is quick to point out that IP Semiconductors isn't the only vendor with a full-duplex OC48 solution -- one that can process packets both going on and coming off the switch card. AMCC announced such a chip back in April 2001 (see AMCC Introduces Network Processors), and says it started shipping samples in June. IP Semiconductors also claims its chips are sampling now.
Other vendors, such as Agere Systems (NYSE: AGR), only offer uni-directional OC48 network processor chips, which means that they have to be doubled up on the line card. They also need row upon row of expensive memory chips to support them, according to Jessen.
Making direct comparisons between chips from different vendors is tricky, however. Jessen contends that a typical application -- an OC48 packet-over-Sonet line card, for example -- would require more than 60 chips using silicon from Agere, while a similar implementation with his company's silicon requires only four chips: one SpeedRouter, one SpeedAnalyzer, and two SDRAMs (an inexpensive type of memory chip). Agere disputes these numbers, saying there is no such thing as a "typical" application.
Chip numbers aside, IP Semiconductors may have gained an edge over other vendors in this space by virtue of the architecture it's adopted. Most network processors today are based around one or two "processor cores" (CPUs, essentially), with a set of program instructions to tell them what to do.
In contrast, IP Semiconductor has designed its chips around an FPGA (field-programmable gate array) from Xilinx Inc. (Nasdaq: XLNX). FPGAs deliver better performance than processor-based products because, once programmed, the chip instructions are effectively hard-wired. The downside is that FPGAs are not as easy to upgrade or modify as processor-based solutions.
— Pauline Rigby, Senior Editor, Light Reading