Cisco unveils 40-core networking processor

Cisco packs 800 million transistors on its new Quantum Flow Processor

Cisco Systems has unveiled its QuantumFlow Processor, a networking semiconductor that has 40 cores on a single chip.

The processor, the result of a five-year Cisco development effort, has a fully integrated and programmable networking chip set that controls different functions of a system, such as data transfer. According to Cisco, the processor can perform up to 160 simultaneous processes.

Dan Olds, an analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group, said that while a 40-core chip isn't groundbreaking technology, it's a good step for Cisco.

"It is a big deal but not a huge deal," Olds told Computerworld. "Intel has done an 80-core prototype, and other companies have done lots too, but this is the first and biggest networking chip. It should lead to fewer discrete networking devices and thus cut the amount of space needed for networking equipment. There is also assumedly [sic] a power savings when compared to existing single- or dual-core networking processors."

A network processor is an integrated circuit that is in network devices such as routers and security appliances.

In announcing the chip, Cisco did not offer much information on the technology or what it plans to do with it. More information is expected to be disclosed on March 4.

The company did note that it's made big strides in the number of transistors that they're packing onto the chip. Cisco's Silicon Packet Processor (SPP), an integrated circuit, was released in 2004 with 185 million transistors. Today, the QuantumFlow Processor has more than 800 million transistors.

"This new processor offers more than four times the transistor density, which is a huge advance over existing network processors," said Olds. "For IT, that will mean more throughput from their network -- more stuff being routed more quickly through fewer network routers. For users, it will mean faster networks that can handle larger throughput."

Cisco noted that the processor was designed by a team of more than 100 Cisco engineers and has led to more than 40 patent submissions.

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