Cisco introduces a network processor for SDNs

Sometimes you need a specialty chip, and for the Internet of Everthing, Cisco has its own solution.

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Cisco on Friday announced the nPower X1, a purpose-built network processing unit (NPU) for software-defined networks (SDN) and for the future network known as the Internet of Things (or Internet of Everything, as Cisco calls it).

Cisco may not spring to mind as a chip vendor but it has a lot of custom silicon in its gear, and the X1 is a beast, with four billion transistors, making it the size of a Xeon, and has more than 50 patents. It offers eight times the throughput of previous Cisco network processors but uses one-quarter of the power.

The nPower X1 is designed specifically for handling multi-terabit network performance levels and trillions of transactions. It features 400 Gbits/sec. of throughput from a single chip, to enable multi-terabit network performance. All packet processing, traffic management and I/O functions are integrated on a single processor, which can handle hundreds of millions of unique transactions per second.

Even with its complexity, the X1 can be reprogrammed on the fly to adapt and adjust to user or traffic needs.

Nikhil Jayaram, vice president of engineering at Cisco said in a blog post announcing the new processor that such dedicated processors are needed because general purposes CPUs don't have what it takes for this kind of work.

"While an important consequence of [Internet of Everything] will be a dramatic increase in network bandwidth, the nature of the network will itself change. Interactions will be between people, processes, and things and at any time the network will be simultaneously processing trillions of "network events'," he wrote.

The processor can scale to multi-terabit performance levels while handling trillions of transactions, according to Cisco. It was purpose-built for software-defined networking (SDN) and enables on-the-fly reprogramming for better service agility and simplified network operation.

Cisco will introduce new networking products for the Internet of Everything, including the nPower X1 on September 24.

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