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Performance Models for Network Processor Design
June 2006 (vol. 17 no. 6)
pp. 548-561

Abstract—To provide a variety of new and advanced communications services, computer networks are required to perform increasingly complex packet processing. This processing typically takes place on network routers and their associated components. An increasingly central component in router design is a chip-multiprocessor (CMP) referred to as "network processor” or NP. In addition to multiple processors, NPs have multiple forms of on-chip memory, various network and off-chip memory interfaces, and other specialized logic components such as CAMs (Content Addressable Memories). The design space for NPs (e.g., number of processors, caches, cache sizes, etc.) is large due to the diverse workload, application requirements, and system characteristics. System design constraints relate to the maximum chip area and the power consumption that are permissible while achieving defined line rates and executing required packet functions. In this paper, an analytic performance model that captures the processing performance, chip area, and power consumption for a prototypical NP is developed and used to provide quantitative insights into system design trade offs. The model, parameterized with a networking application benchmark, provides the basis for the design of a scalable, high-performance network processor and presents insights into how best to configure the numerous design elements associated with NPs.

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Index Terms:
Network processor design, performance model, design optimization, power optimization, network processor benchmark.
Citation:
Tilman Wolf, Mark A. Franklin, "Performance Models for Network Processor Design," IEEE Transactions on Parallel and Distributed Systems, vol. 17, no. 6, pp. 548-561, June 2006, doi:10.1109/TPDS.2006.75
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