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Cache memory design for network processors

By: Tzi-Cker Chiueh; Pradhan, P.;

2000 / IEEE / 0-7695-0550-3


This item was taken from the IEEE Conference ' Cache memory design for network processors ' The exponential growth in Internet traffic has motivated the development of a new breed of microprocessors called network processors, which are designed to address the performance problems resulting from the explosion in Internet traffic. The development efforts of these network processors concentrate almost exclusively on streamlining their data paths to speed up network packet processing, which mainly consists of routing and data movement. Rather than blindly pushing the performance of packet processing hardware, an alternative approach is to avoid repeated computation by applying the time-tested architecture idea of caching to network packet processing. Because the data streams presented to network processors and general-purpose CPUs exhibit different characteristics, detailed cache design tradeoffs for the two also differ considerably. This research focuses on cache memory design specifically for network processors. Using a trace-drive simulation methodology, we evaluate a series of three progressively more aggressive routing-table cache designs. Our simulation results demonstrate that the incorporation of hardware caches into network processors, when combined with efficient caching algorithms, can significantly improve the overall packet forwarding performance due to a sufficiently high degree of temporal locality in the network packet streams. Moreover, different cache designs can result in up to a factor of 5 difference in the average routing table lookup time, and thus in the packet forwarding rate.