Systematically Exploring the Design Space of Network Processors

Matthias Gries1, Chidamber Kulkarni2, and Christian Sauer3
(Professor Kurt Keutzer)

Current designs of network processors reveal manifold micro-architectures [1]. Even processors targeted on the same application domain show a variety of differences in micro-architecture topology. It is unclear whether any of the current solutions actually represents a natural and efficient implementation of the required functionality for a given application such as IPv4 forwarding.

In order to enable the systematic evaluation of different existing innovative designs in a reasonable time-frame, we investigate the feasibility of a recently developed analytical performance estimation approach [2] to catch inherent characteristics of the design space and to automatically guide the designer toward optimal solutions in the network processing domain.

We focus in particular on the following issues: (1) extension of the analytical approach to the model and automatically exploring heterogeneous communication architectures; (2) comparison of results from the analytical model with simulation-based results [3]; (3) design space pruning by incorporating technology constraints as well as individual constraints defined by the designer; and (4) incorporation of domain-specific design decisions into an automated exploration framework, such as the partitioning of application tasks between micro-processor threads.

N. Shah, "Understanding Network Processors," master's thesis, UC Berkeley, September 2001.
L. Thiele, S. Chakraborty, M. Gries, A. Maxiaguine, and J. Greutert, "Embedded Software in Network Processors--Models and Algorithms," Workshop on Embedded Software, Tahoe City, CA, October 2001.
M. Tsai, C. Kulkarni, C. Sauer, N. Shah, and K. Keutzer, "A Benchmarking Methodology for Network Processors," Network Processors 2002: Design Principles and Practice, Morgan Kaufmann Publishers Inc., 2002.
1Postdoctoral Researcher
2Postdoctoral Researcher
3Visiting Industrial Fellow, Infineon Technologies

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