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Juggling data

Processors take the strain as networking demands grow. By Graham Pitcher.

As developers move towards the 'triple play' of voice, data and video becoming available over wired and wireless networks, the demands placed on the processors in these systems grows. But it's not just handling the 'triple play'; developers need to provide ever higher levels of security, as well as a range of networking options.
In order to support that much vaunted 'triple play', processors need to handle a mix of data, voice and video content. But the proportions of each will vary, so the systems need to be flexible. Meanwhile, data rates are increasing as technologies such as gigabit Ethernet and VDSL2 are implemented and IEEE802.11n and wireless technologies beyond 3G loom on the horizon.

But that's not the only problem. As content gets more varied and complex, applications require more intelligent processing of data and content at line rate. Security also becomes a problem as greater volumes of sensitive data are sent electronically around the world. This means network providers need to design additional levels of security, including encryption, authentication, intrusion prevention and anti virus protection.

Some of these requirements may well be catered for by 'traditional' network processors. But the increasing demands outlined above inevitably require new solutions; and, like the processors being developed for computing applications, that means multicore devices in some instances and 64bit technology.
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