Chip Technology Speeds Web Switches

FRAMINGHAM (04/27/2000) - MMC Networks Inc. is debuting a new architecture for its network processors that promises enterprise users faster, less-expensive switches for their e-commerce infrastructures.

MMC's nP content switching architecture lets the firm'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 and HTTP redirection - to the network processor.

This speeds processing on the network processor and off-loads net-related processing tasks from general-purpose processors.

Network processors are more efficient than general- purpose processors because they have been optimized for network processing. Each MMC processor costs from $100 to $300. 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. MMC's network processors save users money because they are optimized to perform network-related tasks, such as network address translation, says Robin Melnick, director of marketing for MMC.

In January, the firm offered chips to go into Web switches that translate to a cost of about $50 per Fast Ethernet port.

Sean Lavey, an analyst with IDC in Framingham, Massachusetts, says MMC has made strides in reducing the 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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