Network traffic continues to grow, driven by 4G smartphones, video on demand (VoD) and cloud-based applications. Mobile data is forecast by Cisco to grow by an average of 66 percent each year for the next five years, reaching 11.2 exabytes per month by 2017. To meet these requirements service providers need networking systems with much greater packet processing capabilities that can handle at least 100Gbit/s bandwidths.
Multicore processors and network processor units (NPUs) are used in most high-performance networking systems, handling packet processing from less than 1 Gbit/s up to more than 100 Gbit/s. Telecom equipment manufacturers are developing systems with NPUs that can handle more than 100 Gbit/s. For lower-speed systems, telecom equipment manufacturers can choose from a range of different solutions, including general-purpose processors, communications processors, integrated multicore processors and NPUs.
Our survey goes beyond gauging the depth and breadth of use for multicore processors and NPUs by providing insights into which devices telecom equipment manufacturers are using, for what applications and how they rated each vendor. The report includes information from previous surveys in 2006 and 2010, providing valuable trend data. The report charts the use of specific general-purpose processors, communications processors, integrated multicore processors and NPUs. Respondents were also asked if they used field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) or application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) for packet processing and what performance and features would be required for future multicore processors and NPUs.
Looking forward, our respondents said that packet processors should integrate security functions, traffic management, DPI and control plane processing. Our respondents also said that they needed higher performance packet processors and that performance was the most important criteria when selecting processors for networking applications. At the same time, our respondents said that the power budget for packet processing was very significant with most allowing more than 20W and one quarter allowing 120W or more. This opens the door for highly integrated multicore processors that can handle at least 40Gbit/s packet processing and associated control plane and management functions.
TEMs Rate Multicore & Network Processor Suppliers for 2013 analyzes the use of multicore processors and NPUs by telecom equipment manufacturers, based on a worldwide survey of engineers, designers, product managers and sales/marketing personnel that work for telecom and networking system equipment manufacturers and suppliers. The responses make it clear that these devices are critical components in most types of networking equipment.