Four chips in one

Agere Systems’ PayloadPlus APP540 network processor crams four separate chips into one and is claimed by its maker to be the fastest yet.

Four formerly separate devices – a programmable traffic manager, a multi-field classifier search engine, a network processor, and an Ethernet media access controller (MAC) – have been crammed into Agere Systems’ new PayloadPlus APP540 network processor which can process information at speeds of 5 Gbits/sec.

According to Agere, competing products require at least two chips, and in several cases three or more, to perform these four different functions at comparable speeds. Using fewer chips obviously decreases electronics costs, power consumption, and equipment size, as well as increases reliability.

The classifier determines what should be done with the voice, data, or video information entering communications equipment. The network processor obeys processing and forwarding directions the classifier gives it. Robust traffic management helps control the flow of information exiting the network processor to most efficiently use the available bandwidth. Robust traffic management, which supports true bandwidth and delay guarantees to 8,192 queues or more of individually scheduled streams of traffic, is important to support high-value service-level agreements for telecom carriers. The Ethernet MAC allows direct connection to the Ethernet.

Roughly one-fourth the size of a credit card, the APP540 chip is part of Agere’s family of integrated PayloadPlus network processors, traffic management and system software solutions used in communications equipment platforms.

Agere’s PayloadPlus chips are used in various types of corporate office building and telecommunications central office equipment. Such equipment includes multi-service provisioning platforms and switches, routers, data centre switches, 2.5-generation and third-generation wireless equipment, Ethernet over Synchronous Optical Network (SONET)/Synchronous Digital Hierarchy (SDH) add/drop multiplexers, and SONET transmission systems.

Agere Systems has also announced the PayloadPlus APP520 chip, which is essentially the same device as the APP540 yet targeted at lower-cost applications. Agere’s two new chips are scheduled to start sampling to customers in April. In quantities of 10,000, the chips are priced at $295 and $195, respectively.

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