RealTime IT News

Intel Hands Over High-Speed Network Line

Netronome Systems has struck a deal with Intel to take over the development of Intel's high-speed networking processors, thereby ensuring continued development of chips that otherwise faced a dead end.

Netronome, which develops chips, cards and systems to conduct deep-packet inspections of flow text and encrypted communications over high-speed networks, will build extensions into Intel's line of IXP28XX network accelerators.

Intel will then combine its network acceleration technology with Netronome's flow analysis technology to scan data as it comes over the wire at very high speeds.

The IXP2800 is not your average networking chip. It can handle up to 10Gbps of throughput, and in a dual-processor configuration, it has been certified to forward at a full line rate OC-192 full duplex traffic (20Gbps) with zero packet loss.

Unfortunately, that wasn't enough for Intel. Bob Wheeler, senior analyst with The Linley Group, which follows the semiconductor industry, said the IXP line had reached its conclusion at Intel.

"The network processor market is in the hundreds of millions, not the billions a company the size of Intel needs," he told InternetNews.com. "The business wasn't scaling to the point Intel wanted to invest in it. We think [this deal] is very significant because the IXP line is the leading line of network processors in the market right now, and without this deal it had no future, basically."

Netronome will also add its content and flow analysis for specialized network and security appliances at the L2 to L7 layers. It will allow for building network switches, routers and appliances that can do high-speed packet forwarding, intelligent flow analysis and processing.

The deal will allow IXP customers to continue their hardware and software development efforts, according to Netronome. "What this deal allows us to build is a next-generation derivative of the IXP2800 line, and we'll use that silicon to sell not only to those existing customers but also for our next generation of line products," said Jarrod Siket, senior vice president for marketing and sales at Netronome.

Netronome will take the lead on the network flow processors development while it collaborates with Intel on several technology initiatives, including Intel's QuickPath Interconnect and QuickAssist. Netronome will provide sales support for the processor lines and support for the Intel IXA Software and Hardware Development Kits (SDK/HDK).

In addition to integrating its technology with the IXP2800, Siket said Netronome expects to reduce costs by using newer memory. Currently, the IXP2800 uses Rambus memory, but it plans to switch to newer, faster and cheaper DDR2 memory.

Wheeler said there are some "very straightforward things" Netronome can do right off the bat, such as changing the memory interfaces, as well as other interfaces in the chip. For now, he's just happy to see the IXP will continue.

"What's important is that the Intel IXP line is the leading line of network processors, and Intel had no ongoing roadmap for that product line," Siket said. "Netronome created a future path for existing customers of the IXP line."