Systems and Means of Informatics
2021, Volume 31, Issue 1, pp 111-121
EVOLUTION OF NETWORK PROCESSORS
Network processors (NP) have passed a long evolution way from general-purpose computers equipped with network interfacing cards to highly integrated on-chip systems comprising dozens of programmable processors, hardware accelerators, and network interfaces. The high performance was reached in the NPs on two differing directions: old microelectronic firms scaled up the number of processing cores with a conventional architecture, while small young companies invented specialized approaches. The second direction provided better relative characteristics, but the small firms were not competitive due to complexities of programming in their nonconventional architectures and paucity of resources to create comprehensive NP software. Ultimately, almost all of them left recently the NP market, having been absorbed, in one way or another, by some larger companies. Herewith, the latter utilized the acquired technologies mostly not for expansion into the NP market so much as for applying the multicore experience to conquer the high-performance server processors market which rapidly grows in the nowadays' era of cloud technologies. Thus, the NPs are actually ceasing to exist as separate products and turning into an intrafirm tool for intellectualization of a restricted circle of some specific network devices.
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