Kanata firm hopes to drive faster routers

In response to the Internet bandwidth explosion, a Kanata, Ont.-based firm has created a technology it says will allow next-generation core routers to perform fast look-ups on packets up to Layer 7.

SiberCore Technologies Inc.’s packet-forwarding engines, based on a ternary content addressable memory (CAM) architecture, will allow router vendors to build multi-gigabit and terabit platforms, said Ken Schultz, SiberCore’s CEO.

SiberCore was formed by former Nortel engineers in 1998 to develop next-generation packet forwarding technologies.

Schultz explained SiberCore’s technology will replace the application specific integrated circuits (ASICs) that drive existing wirespeed routers (or switches).

“Our technology not only provides a huge improvement over ASIC-based solutions, but it’s an improvement on existing CAM-based solutions,” he said.

CAM-based packet forwarding engines from companies such as Netlogic Microsystems Inc. and Lara Technology Inc. began shipping last year, said Andrew Sorowka, SiberCore’s vice-president of marketing. CAM-based engines are supposed to have superior packet throughput to traditional algorithmic look-up technologies.

But Sorowka noted the performance of existing CAM-based engines isn’t as good as the engine SiberCore will begin shipping in Q1 2000.

Sorowka said the speed of existing packet forwarding engines isn’t fast enough to keep up with the demands being placed on them.

“As you have more video and voice in packetized form, QoS is becoming more complex,” he explained. “Now routers and switches don’t just need Layer 2 and 3, but Layer 4. This requires a complexity increase.”

One of the key differentiators between SiberCore’s forwarding engines and its CAM-based competitors, according to Schultz, is the fact that competitors’ CAM engines are set to handle fixed-width look-ups on one particular chip. So, for example, routers based on a competitor’s technology would require one chip for 32-bit look-ups and another chip for 128-bit look-ups. SiberCore, on the other hand, supports multiple-width look-ups on one chip.

Schultz said SiberCore has showcased its new engine to several major router manufacturers.

“They’re very impressed,” he said. “We’re finding increasingly we’re winning head-to-head battles with our competitors.”