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Network processors double performance, run Linux

Oct 9, 2006 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 7 views

Fabless semiconductor vendor Cavium will ship a new line of multi-core MIPS64-based network and security processors early next year. The Octeon Plus CN58xx chips will come with Linux SDKs (software development kits), and will offer full-duplex 10 Gigabit performance within tight power envelopes and size limitations, according… to the company.

Like its original Octeon CN38xx line, Cavium's Octeon Plus chips will target networking, security, control plane, wireless, storage, and broadband gateway applications.

Cavium expects the Octeon Plus to double the performance of the earlier Octeon line, while retaining the same power budget, pin-out, and software compatibility. The improvements come thanks to architectural enhancements, higher clock speeds, and innovative power management techniques, according to the company.

Four Octeon Plus base models will be offered, at clock speeds from 600MHz to 1GHz, and power ranges from 15 to 40 Watts:

  • CN5830 — four cores
  • CN5840 — eight cores
  • CN5850 — 12 cores
  • CN5860 — 16 cores

Each of the above models will be available with three options, designated by three-letter codes, and corresponding to which IP (intellectual property) blocks are included:

  • NSP (network services processor) — handles encryption, reg-ex acceleration, de/compression, networking, TCP acceleration, QoS
  • EXP (extreme processor) — includes reg-ex acceleration, de/compression, networking, TCP acceleration, QoS
  • SCP (secure communications processor) — includes encryption, networking, TCP acceleration, QoS

Cavium Octeon Plus block diagram
(Click to enlarge)

The Octeon Plus chips offer either 1MB (-30 and -40 model) or 2MB (-50 and -60 model) of L2 cache. They integrate a 72- or 144-bit DDR-II memory controller, with error correction. I/O includes a 64-bit, 133MHz PCI-X interface, along with support for up to two I/O modules, which can be either a block of four gigabit Ethernet Interfaces, or a single “system packet interface” based on the SPI-4.2 specification.

More details about the Octeon architecture can be found in our earlier coverage, here.

Software options

Cavium says Octeon Plus will support standard OSes, including “Linux, MontaVista Linux, and Wind River for both VxWorks and Linux.” The chips are also available with a “thin executive” targeting fast-path data-plane applications.

Cavium plans to ship the Octeon Plus with an SDK based on embedded Linux. The SDK will include a GNU tool-chain and GDB development environment, as well as third party toolchains aimed at helping developers port MIPS32, MIPS64, and “other C/C++” applications to the Octeon.

Additional software components expected to ship with the Octeon Plus include APIs, L2 to L4 reference software, WLAN drivers, and software toolkits for IPsec, SSL, SSL-VPN, and TCP stacks.

Cavium expects around 30 third-party hardware and software vendors to offer Octeon Plus-based products, including:

  • OS/Tools

  • Software stacks
    • IPv6 ready networking stacks
    • management plane software
    • UTM applications
    • VOIP
    • JVMs (Java virtual machines)
  • Complementary silicon
  • Hardware systems
    • standard ATX 1U, 2U, and 3U configurations

    • AdvancedTCA cards
    • AMCs (advanced mezzanine cards)

Senior IDC analyst Ian Eigenbrod stated, “The next generation of converged wired and wireless infrastructure equipment requires high compute performance along with features such as Robust Header Compression (ROHC), KASUMI security, and subscriber management services within strict power budgets. Processor vendors that deliver leading performance and performance/watt characteristics, general purpose software programmability, and targeted application acceleration are well positioned to capture major designs for next generation networking and wireless equipment.”

Analyst Linley Gwennap, of the Linley Group, added, “Integrated multi-core processors with on-chip application acceleration have established themselves as the most efficient method of powering next-generation networking platforms. With Octeon Plus, Cavium [will offer] the world's fastest general-purpose processor for packet processing and security applications.”

Cavium CEO Syed Ali said that “Cavium has doubled the performance of the Multi-Core Octeon family in less than two years.”


The Octeon Plus will ship in Q1, priced from $255 for a 4-core, 600MHz SCP version, to $987 for a 16-core, 1GHz SCP version, in 10K quantities.

Cavium is currently shipping an Octeon Development Kit, which includes a software simulator, tool-chain, and reference applications.

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