Chip Technology Speeds Web Switches, Reduces Costs

MMC Networks is debuting a new architecture for its network processors that ultimately promises enterprise users faster, less-expensive switches for their e-commerce infrastructures.

MMC's nP content switching architecture lets the company's network processors move Web switching traffic at wire-speed, in this case Gigabit Ethernet, and migrate processor intensive, network protocol-related software functions - such as network address translation, TCP session spoofing and splicing, and HTTP redirection - to the network processor. This operation speeds processing on the network processor and offloads network-related processing tasks from the general-purpose processors.

The network processor is more efficient than a general-purpose processor because it has been optimized for network processing. Each network processor costs between $US100 and $US300. The MMC nP7120 network processor has two processing cores, each operating at 200 MHz.

MMC's network processors also use software-based instruction sets vs. older Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) technology, which makes them less expensive to develop. That's because chip upgrades can be programmed into new chipsets, unlike ASIC technology, which forces a new design with each new processor. But how the company's network processors ultimately save users money is they are optimized to perform network-related tasks, such as network address translation, according to Robin Melnick, director of marketing for MMC.

In January, the company offered chips for the Web switches that translated to a cost of about $US50 per Fast Ethernet port. MMC's current network processor customers include Arrowpoint, Cisco, Lucent and Nortel.

Sean Lavey, an analyst with IDC, said MMC has made strides in reducing the overall cost of Web switches by moving its technology closer to the network edge - to be used in switches and routers in e-commerce infrastructure.

MMC's network processors and switching engines can be used in Layer 2 to Layer 7 WAN and LAN switches and routers, as well as broadband, optical and wireless devices.

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