Intel Unveils Programmable Network Hardware

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Sept. 1, 1999 – Intel today announced a new network processor and a family of silicon-based products. Intel stated that the purpose of these products is “to help enable the networking and communications industry build faster, more intelligent networks”.

The foundation of the line of communications silicon products is the new Intel Internet Exchange (IX) Architecture. Intel claims it uses an open standards-based design, which allows designers to add network functionality quickly and with lower cost.

Intel’s plan is to deliver silicon to an extensive group of telecommunications and networking companies, using the new core technology products of Intel’s recent acquisitions, Level One Communications, Softcom Microsystems and Digital Semiconductor.

Intel’s New Silicon Family

Intel’s recently acquired Level One Communications, Inc., introduced a portfolio of silicon components as part of today’s announcement. The heart of this portfolio is the Level One IXP1200 network processor, a reprogrammable network engine comprised of a StrongARM processor core and six programmable RISC packet processing micro engines that Intel claims delivers approximately 1000 MIPs of useable wire speed performance per processor.

Intel states that “the IXP1200 network processor is designed to deliver the performance and flexibility needed by a new generation of routers, switches and access concentrators for Internet service providers and enterprise customers. Programming instructions can be used to add new features to networking products, thereby extending the life of systems. The IXP1200 enables a fundamental shift in networking and communications system design, which has typically relied on a 12 to 18 month development cycle for custom ASICs.”

Internet Exchange Architecture

The Internet Exchange Architecture is Intel’s foundation for designing networking and telecommunications equipment based on open interfaces and programmable silicon. Intel states that “the IX Architecture provides a new level of integration, performance and programmability to network system original equipment manufacturers (OEMs)”. Intel believes that OEMs can use IX Architecture to design systems without incurring the costs and risks associated with ASIC (application specific integrated circuit) design. The anticipated result is developers can speed up the time to bring product to market and take advantage of new network technologies.

Not only is Intel providing the IX Architecture to developers but they are also providing a developer’s tool kit. The tool kit is designed to expedite product design and enables developers to provide product enhancements to their clients.

Intel says some of the network product providers who support the IX Architecture and products that incorporate IX Architecture elements include: Broadband Access Systems; Cabletron; CAG; Cisco; Newbridge Networks; and Omneon Video Networks. Several Third-party developers that have announced support for the IXA include: Hi/fn; Harris & Jeffries; Inter-Niche; Trillium, T.Sqware, Inc.; and Wind River Systems.

Intel also announced today The Intel Communications Fund. It will be used to invest in companies developing networking and communications products that support key Intel voice and data communications programs. The initial benefactors of this $200 million fund will be companies developing products that are based on IX Architecture including basic communications components and other communications building blocks.

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