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September 08, 2010

Network Processor Manages P2P Traffic Efficiently and Cost Effectively

By Ashok Bindra, TMCnet Contributor

Although Napster is out of business for copyright violations of intellectual property, it has generated a new breed of file sharing systems known as peer-to-peer or more commonly referred to as P2P.

While it has been difficult to precisely measure P2P traffic, it is undoubtedly a big chunk of the Internet traffic. And, despite legal pressures, it is predicted to grow moderately for next several years. In fact, Cisco (News - Alert) study estimates that P2P file sharing networks are now carrying 3.3 exabytes per month and will continue to grow at a moderate pace with a CAGR of 18 percent from 2008 to 2013.

Whatever the actual P2P traffic, the challenge is that it is disproportionate and not revenue generating. And efforts to limit the bandwidth based on TCP port numbers are now often sidestepped.

Hence, a more discriminating strategy is required to identify and isolate P2P traffic. Once identified, rules may be applied to control traffic based on a variety of variables, such as traffic type, specific user (IP), specific application (P2P vs HTML, VoIP, etc), traffic flow (direction) and rate class by user and/or traffic type. As a result, P2P traffic can be throttled or diverted and priority given to more sensitive applications.

Although, traffic management platforms have existed for sometime, they have been proprietary and custom configured hardware with no open interfaces, keeping the development cost high.

To enable application developers create software for a broader market and customer base, the industry needs a flexible open platform where new traffic modules (both hardware and software) can be easily added to keep cost under control.

Advantech offers such a system platform that delivers maximum benefit for the software developer as well as the network OEM. For demanding traffic management applications, Advantech (News - Alert) has readied a network processor, labeled NCP-5260, that implements deep packet inspection (DPI) for accelerated packet processing and Intel server class data processing.

The network processor  NCP-5260 is based on a dual Intel (News - Alert) Xeon 5600 Series motherboard that is connected to two Netlogic XLR network processor boards performing deep packet processing on multiple 10 GbE ports prior to forwarding packets to the Intel Xeon processors. Besides implementing standard x86 software on the motherboard, it also offloads packet processing to the NPUs.

According to Advantech, the NCP-5260 represents a new generation of hybrid system design with Intel architecture processing on the control plane, and Packetarium network processing boards for the data plane. It integrates up to two powerful, multi-core Packetarium network processing boards for wire-speed packet processing and accommodates up to 16 x 10 GbE external interfaces. The main carrier board provides the high-speed switched interconnects between Packetarium boards. The Intel Xeon-based server board provides storage, system management and remote management network connections.

Each network processing board is linked by dual or quad XAUI ports to a Broadcom (News - Alert) 10 GbE switch on the carrier board. The 10 GbE switch provides sixteen front panel 10 GbE SFP+ ports. The carrier board incorporates a MPC8545 processor for overall switch management. A SATA controller on the server board connects to two 2.5-inch SATA HDD slots.

The scalability afforded by the network processor NCP-5260 makes it suitable for OEMs designing high bandwidth systems in enterprise networking. It is particularly applicable for applications in service-provider networks for enhanced security, in content-aware routing and subscriber-based services.

The initial Packetarium network processing boards supported by the NCP-5260 are based on the Netlogic RMI XLR 732 8-core processor. Each processor supports up to 4 GB of memory on two DIMM sockets. Two PCIe x4 provide control plane connectivity with the carrier while two XAUI ports connect to the data plane. The board is designed with IPMI 2.0 H/W management, remotely managed via a local module management controller (MMC) connected to the carrier's IPMB-L (I2C) bus. A console port and a 1000 Mbps port provide further management interface options. Other network processing boards in the Packetarium family are also compatible with NCP-5260.

Ashok Bindra is a veteran writer and editor with more than 25 years of editorial experience covering RF/wireless technologies, semiconductors and power electronics. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Erin Monda

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