Computer/Embedded Technology


Network processors not just for routers anymore

23 October 2002 Computer/Embedded Technology

The network processor (NPU) market has been hit hard by the economic downturn that resulted after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and, as a result, a much higher percentage (upwards of 80%) than normal of design wins that were started in 2001 have been cancelled in the last year. This is according to research firm In-Stat/MDR, which reports that a whole new crop of opportunities have arisen for NPUs, and while they were spawned specifically to address the router market, the core strengths of these devices, namely being programmable and economical, have caused them to be successful in a wide spectrum of new applications.

The opportunities that have arisen for NPUs capitalise on green field conditions like resilient packet rings (RPR) and wireless infrastructure equipment for 3G, says InStat. Others, like IP service switches and multiservice provisioning platforms (MSPPs), are being built to integrate within legacy networks today, and then provide an economical path for adding additional capabilities and services later. However, InStat believes that many NPU vendors are still toiling and nurturing their 'design win fields,' in the hope that, eventually, the harvest will come in.

InStat expects that in 2003, the average selling price of Metro NPUs will plummet 13%, mainly due to companies like Motorola and IBM releasing new, slower and cheaper Metro NPUs that will compete against Intel's success with its first NPU. It says that this effect will be temporary, and by 2005, the annual depreciation rate for Metro NPUs will be a more reasonable 8%.





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