Twenty years after the first network processors were launched, we are now moving toward the fully programmable data plane, with network operator virtualization efforts driving that trend.
Most physical networking systems are being replaced by virtual network functions (VNFs) running on servers at the core and edge of the network. These servers have general-purpose processors or integrated multicore processors with hardware acceleration for security and packet processing. The next stage is replacing the fixed function hardware switches with fully programmable switches based on the latest switch chips. The demand for programmable switches and multicore processors that support high-throughput packet processing is coming from carriers and service providers, and both equipment developers and silicon suppliers are responding to these requests.