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Cavium Enters Search Coprocessor Market

August 19, 2011

Author: Jag Bolaria

This month, Cavium announced its upcoming family of search coprocessors. The products include the Neuron Search and the Neuronmax Search lines of coprocessors. The former is a standalone search coprocessor that integrates all required memory, while the latter uses a combination of on-chip and external memory. The primary difference between these components is the addition of a DDR3 controller in Neuronmax Search.

Scheduled to sample in 1Q12, these coprocessors perform Layer 2 through Layer 4 lookups for networking equipment in the enterprise and service provider markets. Specifically, each device can perform LPM (longest prefix match) and ACL-rule lookups. Instead of using a TCAM-based architecture, Cavium has developed proprietary technology to perform LPM and ACL lookups. The company claims Neuron Search provides 4× the capacity of a 40Mb TCAM at half the power, giving it a tremendous advantage. Neuronmax Search uses external memory to support up to 20 times the capacity of Neuron Search.

The Neuron Search family interfaces to a network processor using Interlaken LA or a parallel bus. With Interlaken, Neuron Search supports the latest NPUs, while the parallel interface supports legacy NPUs. Cavium plans to offer family members at different performance levels, ranging from 100 million searches per second to 1.6 billion searches per second with guaranteed latency.

Cavium enters the search coprocessor market at the beginning of a new growth spurt, which is driven by the move from IPv4 to IPv6 combined with greater port rates. By guaranteeing latency, Cavium has addressed the traditional issue associated with algorithmic solutions. At the same time, Neuron/Neuronmax Search are set to take the lead in capacity per watt. With its power and density advantages, Neuron/Neuronmax Search are well positioned to win designs against traditional TCAM-based search coprocessors.

Additional coverage of search coprocessors appears in our report A Guide to Network Processors.


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