Cavium MIPSes Network and Security Processing

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Cavium’s philosophy is that the only thing that matters is the system, and what it can do for customers. While it is apparent that the engineers at Cavium have paid meticulous attention to the important parts of the design, the goal is a superior system. So what are customers doing with Cavium’s OCTEON products? Quite a bit as it turns out.

One recently announced customer is ZTE, one of China’s largest telecommunications equipment companies. ZTE supplies network infrastructure equipment for over 150 million wireless subscribers across the globe. ZTE is using OCTEON as the heart of their next generation wireless communication equipment, which is intended for 3G service providers, and noted the standard programming model as a key factor in the decision making process. Another recently announced customer is Vernier Networks. They are using OCTEON in their EdgeWall, 40Gbps Network Access Control and Policing devices.

Cavium itself is also offering a PCI/PCI-X line accelerator card the OCTEON XL. These expansion cards are targeted at storage and security vendors. The low end card functions as a coprocessor and includes mini-DIMM DDR2 interfaces, while the mid range option adds 4 Gigabit Ethernet ports, and the high end model features a SPI 4.2 interface with 256MB of RLDRAM2 for the regular expression engines. The line cards focus on x86 devices, but the driver is portable, and features APIs for most of the functions.


In the world of security and network traffic flows, performance is king and parallelism abounds, giving designers the freedom to pursue performance in a cost and power effective manner. Perhaps best of all, it appears that demand for security products is nearly insatiable. Security is no longer just a nice feature for marketing departments to take advantage of, but is a requirement, particularly for applications near the edge of the network. While it remains to be seen, many security experts have posited that in the not too distant future, the interior of many networks will be fully secured, rather than just key segments.

The technology in OCTEON is not new, in some respects it as an extension of their prior work with NITROX. However, Cavium will almost certainly be remembered for being the first to bring together a collection of good technologies and forging them into an incredibly attractive product. Cavium took advantage of CMOS scalability to produce a high performance system on a chip that integrates multiple MIPS cores with security extensions and a variety of coprocessors, complete with a standard development environment. Cavium’s success with customers such as Cisco, F5, Symantec, ZTE and others demonstrates that embracing the future of higher integration, and easier use is the path to success. Cavium’s story is also a ray of hope to smaller companies. They have demonstrated that a semiconductor company can extend a specialized product into a more general market quite successfully, and no doubt the industry will be watching to see what Cavium’s next steps will be.

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