For carrier equipment, the NPS enables the migration of advanced layer 4-7 features from specialized services cards to common line cards and enables the line card with new baseline features such as application recognition and IPSec VPNs, as well as greater velocity for adding new features. For data-center equipment, the NPS allows scaling their performance to the required loads of the evolving data center for greater layer 2-7 capabilities within constrained power and space. It empowers data-center appliances as well as carrier appliances with line-rate performance for applications such as load balancing, firewall and OpenFlow/SDN (Software Defined Networks) and network virtualization.
The NPS is uniquely designed for data-plane processing where packet processing and wire-speed forwarding prevail, unlike CPUs that are designed for general processing where management functions and control-plane processing prevail. Central to the NPS are its innovative CTOPs (C-programmable Task Optimized Processors). These processing engines build on EZchip's extensive NPU experience and are designed specifically for data-plane processing. The optimized design allows the integration of 256 such processors, each with 16 threads, for a total of 4K virtual processing engines. This vast number of engines is mandatory for high-speed data-plane processing where packets are arriving at an extremely high rate and every packet is processed. The NPS architecture is in contrast to CPUs that have an order of magnitude fewer engines integrated into a chip because they are based on much larger general-purpose cores, have large memory caches, designed to execute millions lines of code, and target both data and control processing. The NPS' efficient design allows incorporating into the chip not only a great number of cores but also EZchip's market-proven hardware traffic manager, a task optimized memory architecture, and numerous hardware accelerators for efficient table lookups, application recognition and security. The end result is a very powerful network processor with superior power efficiency and integration.