SUNNYVALE, Calif. Looking for faster packet speeds, MMC Networks Inc. is using embedded DRAM cells in its latest network processor. The company's AnyFlow 5506 processor, which results from a partnership with Silicon Aquarius Inc., is the first network processor to incorporate on-chip DRAM, the company said.
"Embedded DRAM will be an important part of our road map," said Lawrence Ebringer, director of marketing at MMC, which plans to add embedded DRAM to upcoming devices in its network processor lines.
The AnyFlow 5506 is ramping now and is already in use by several customers, primarily in WAN equipment and edge-of-network routers and switches, Ebringer said.
The addition of DRAM to the network processor saves board space and allows faster time-to-market, as it allows designers to work with fewer components, Ebringer said. "OEMs can get all the memory they require by using just this one part," he said.
MMC is currently placing, "several megabytes" of memory onto their processors," he said. "This can replace up to half-a-dozen components in a system."
Jim Handy, memory analyst for Dataquest Inc. (San Jose, Calif.), said that embedded DRAM can increase system performance by increasing the communications bandwidth between the system's processor and memory. "I'm seeing a lot of this happening," he said. "People are taking advantage of DRAM technology, which allows them to put a lot of memory bits onto a small chip, and they are getting lots of bandwidth on the device. This is all really important stuff in this field."
"Increasing the bandwidth is important, and so is decreasing the amount of space that is used," said Ebringer. "This part can increase the switching capacity for the same amount of board space, and in edge applications, board area is an absolute killer."
MMC expects to see that combination of capacity and area become even more important in the future, and is planning to use embedded DRAM in future network processors to leverage this advantage. "We see embedded DRAM as an important part of our product line going forward," Ebringer said. "We will put it in all of our products going forward."