Intel is to begin production of processors designed specifically for use in network hardware, such as routers and switches.
Traditionally, such devices have been based on ASICs (Application Specific Integrated Circuit), which suffer from long development cycles. By using processors like those planned by Intel, vendors can add and alter features far more quickly by simply reprogramming the device's software.
This means faster production cycles, allowing manufacturers to bring new technologies to market more quickly. For end users, this means that network hardware can be improved by adding software upgrades as they become available.
It could also mean that a single hardware device could be reprogrammed to perform different network functions: for example, the same unit of hardware could be used as a router or a switch, depending on its software.
Another advantage is that, by using these processors in place of ASICs, manufacturers can reduce their production costs and savings may then be passed on to users. Don't get too excited just yet, though, as it's likely to be some time before the world sees products, according to Henrik Hansen, marketing manager of Intel's Network Products Division.
Products based on the new chips could be as far as two years away, he said.
Hansen told PC Week: "These processors will allow anybody who builds network hardware to vastly reduce the time to market of new technologies.
Devices based on these processors will use software like APIs which applications will be able to turn on and off depending on which services are required by the user."
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