SAN FRANCISCO -- In a move to corner the network processor market, Intel Corp. here today announced a line of new products, including a 1.4-GHz part that supports Rambus Inc.'s RDRAM memories and runs at an eye-popping 22,400 million of instructions per second (MIPS).
Intel's new programmable network processor line consists of three products--the IXP425, IXP2400, and IXP2800, which are targeted for the major segments in the communications market. The IXP425 is geared for
high-end, consumer-premise equipment (CPE), while the IXP2400 and IXP2800 are aimed for systems at the access, edge or core of the network, according to the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company.
Part of Intel's Internet Exchange Architecture (IXA) family of communications chips, the new network processors represent the company's first wireline chips, based on its Xscale microarchitecture. Xscale is a new and improved version of Intel's StrongARM RISC processor line. Earlier this month, Intel rolled out its first Xscale-based chip--a device for wireless applications (see Feb. 11 story).
The new network processors also consist of a standard bus structure and the CSIX switch-fabric interface. On its older-generation of network processors, Intel made use of a proprietary bus and switch-fabric interface, which have since been dropped, the company said.
Geared for packet-forwarding, traffic-management and related functions, the new network processors from Intel will compete against similar products from Agere, AMCC, Broadcom, IBM, Motorola, Vitesse, and others.
Intel's chips are also designed to replace ASICs. Systems houses like Cisco and others tend to develop their own ASICs for packet-processing functions in their own equipment, but these proprietary parts are costly and difficult to design, according to Intel.
"ASIC are very, very difficult to develop," said Sean Maloney, executive vice president and general manager of Intel's Communications Group. With the company's new network processors, "We are trying to replace ASICs," Maloney said in a small gathering of reporters at IDF on Monday.
Intel will also attempt to solidify its already strong position in this market. "We offer a complete line of network processors from the CPE to the core of the network," said Nick Finamore, general manager of the Network Processor Business Unit at Intel.
The market is still ripe for network processors in spite of the current and severe downturn in the communications market, Finamore said. "Despite the downturn in the industry, the traffic is increasing on the network," he said. "The push for faster line rates on the network is also increasing," he said in a separate interview with SBN.
Before today's announcement, Intel offered a network processor line--dubbed the IXP1200, which embeds six, 232-MHz RISC engines within the older StongARM-based processor core.
Intel has taken a giant step forward with its new chips. Geared for switches and routers in Ten Gigabit Ethernet and OC-192 networks, the high-end, IXP2800 network processor comes in 1- and 1.4-GHz speed
The 1.4-GHz version also embeds 16 RISC engines within the Xscale core. Each RISC engine runs at 1.4-GHz--for a total performance of 22,400 Mips, according to Intel.
The 1-GHz version also embeds 16 RISC engines. Each engine runs at 1-GHz for a total performance of 16,000 MIPS. Total memory bandwidth is
51-gigabits-per-second, according to Intel. Based on 0.13-micron technology, the IXP2800 also has a memory interface that supports Rambus' high-speed RDRAM chips.
Within the processor, Intel's new and improved RISC engines can process many operations in parallel via Intel's new "Hyper Task Chaining" technology. This "enables a single stream of packet or cell of data to be decomposed into multiple sequential tasks," the
Meanwhile, supporting OC-48 networks, the mid-range IXP2400 device comes in 400- and 600-MHz speed grades, which run at 3,200 and 4,800 Mips, respectively.
These 0.18-micron chips embed 8 RISC engines within the Xscale core, for a total memory bandwidth of 19-gigabits-per-second. The IXP2400 supports "Hyper Task Chaining" and double-data-rate (DDR) SDRAM.
Not to be outdone, the IXP425 represents Intel's entry into the high-end CPE market, which is dominated by Motorola Inc.'s family of devices, based on the PowerPC RISC processor line.
Geared for gateways, DSLAMS, and other products, the IXP425 is a 0.18-micron chip that comes in 266-, 400-, and 533-MHz speed grades. The chip itself embeds three RISC engines within the Xscale core, which enables a 52-megabit-per-second line speed. The RISC engines act like co-processors that support "more value-added applications," said Hank Allard, product manager at Intel.
The IXP425 handles voice, video and data applications across a wide range of transport mediums, including common versions of digital subscriber line, cable, HDLC, IEEE 802.11x wireless and Ethernet. This wide variety of I/O options and preprogramming of the network processor engines simplifies the design job.
The IXP2800 ranges from $485 to $685, while the IXP2400 is $230 to $360, depending on the speeds. Prices are quoted in 10,000-unit lots. The devices will begin sampling in the third quarter of this year, with production due by years end.
The IXP425 will begin sampling in the second quarter, with production due in the third quarter. The device ranges from $25 to $45 in quantities of 10,000. Extended temperature versions of the IXP425 are also available.