Intel stakes network ground with IXA chip

Intel stakes network ground with IXA chip

Intel unveiled its new Internet Exchange Architecture (IXA) last week, announcing 13 new products company officials said will enable the next generation of the Internet.

"The Internet of today was designed over the last decade as a transportation network, designed to move information from point 'a' to point 'b', never really designed to move services," said vice president and general manager of the network communications group, Mark Christensen.

To remedy that, Christensen said networks of tomorrow will have to be smarter. Intel's effort at creating that smarter network is the IXA architecture, which it says is designed to enable the quick, open, and easy addition of new services and capabilities to networks.

Anchoring the architecture will be the IXP 1200 network processor, a reprogrammable network engine, which is just one of the products Intel introduced in what it is calling "Level One" of its IXA strategy.

The IXP 1200 is composed of seven processors, six of which are multithreaded packet processing engines that can carry out four instructions at a time. At the centre of the processor is Intel's StrongArm technology, which will control interaction between engines.

According to Christensen, the StrongArm technology was chosen for its low power requirements, which will enable Intel to pack 1000 MIPS of processing power in a five-watt package.

Three of the four different buses in the IXP 1200 are based on existing standards, Christensen said, and the fourth will be freely licensed to third parties so that they can build products capable of plugging into the architecture. The IXP will also contain two new types of memory controllers.

"The IXP provides a level of flexibility for how people want to develop products," said Christensen. "Users will be able to upgrade equipment in the field and keep it out there longer."

In addition to the IXA announcement, John Miner, VP of the communications product group, opened the second day of Intel's developer forum by echoing the message put forth by Intel president and CEO Craig Barrett.

"One of the keys in this environment is taking advantage of high-volume, standards-based building blocks," Miner said.

Those building blocks, Miner said, will take advantage of Intel's IA-32 and IA-64 server architectures. He added that there is no architecture other than Intel's that is equipped to handle the demands of future users.

Miner underscored that message by saying that Intel's first IA-64 Merced-based systems, which will ship in the middle of next year, will out-perform all non-Intel 64-bit systems at that time. Included in that, Miner said, are Alpha-based systems and those systems built on Sun's UltraSparcIII.

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