Network Systems Design Using Network Processors
||Author: Douglas E. Comer|
List Price: $68.00
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Publisher: Prentice Hall (30 January, 2003)
Sales Rank: 284,561
Average Customer Rating: 3 out of 5
Customer ReviewsRating: 4 out of 5
Prof. Comer demystifies NPs, for the technical masses
Prof. Douglas Comer of Purdue is one of the best textbook authors in the field of Internet technology (and those who have heard him speak, as I have, know that he is even better in person). His TCP/IP volumes are classics that almost every engineer in the industry has read. The fact that he chose to write a textbook on network processors is actually a strong validation of the importance of this technology, and will no doubt help popularize NPs.
The content of this book can be roughly divided into two halves: an overview of NP technology, and then a case study of the Intel IXP1200, to put the theory into practice. In the NP overview section, Comer does a great job of explaining how network systems have evolved over time, and why and where NPs are being used today. He covers all the main technical issues involved in NP designs, such as memory hierarchies and software structure, and provides a survey of different NPs (which will become dated over time). Comer wisely chose the Intel IXP 1200 as his case study, much to the chagrin of other vendors, I'm sure. This was the best choice, since Intel is having more and more success with the IXP over time, especially as other NP vendors fall by the wayside (even Cisco, which built their own NP, is using the IXP family).
Prof. Comer's writing style is very straightforward and practical. NPs are very complex devices, and Comer does a great job of leading the reader through the complexity, by starting at the highest level and working down into more detail, and by explaining the details in clear language that any reasonably skilled engineer (even at the undergraduate level) should be able to understand. Comer views the world through the eyes of a software engineer, and while hardware purists might complain about the relative lack of hardware details, for a book on NPs this is absolutely the best approach, since the purpose of NPs is to make it possible to implement more functionality in software, thereby improving the flexibility and power of network systems. My only negatives on the book are that I wish some more code examples had been included in earlier chapters, and the fact that Comer will need to produce a 2nd edition at some point soon, as the later generation IXPs become more widely used than the 1200.
I highly recommend this book to anyone, both students and professional engineers, who is looking for a solid introduction to NP technology, especially if they will be using the Intel IXP family. At my current company, even our skilled NP engineers found value in this book, and we will be handing a copy to every new engineer who joins one of our NP project teams.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Good overview of network processors,but more details desired
I found this book to be a good, easy-to-read introduction to the topic of network processors. It explains clearly the need to offload CPU's from protocol processing tasks and the motivations for designing network processors that are programmable, scalable, flexible to be used for multiple protocol layers and/or locations within a networking system, and yet are fast enough to handle high data rates. It begins with a general introduction to TCP/IP protocol to establish a foundation for explaining the packet processing functions that come later in the book. The central chapters of the book focus on describing the primary division of a network processor's tasks into ingress/egress processing, and offer good explanations of these tasks. The last few chapters survey some examples of commercial network processors with emphasis on Intel's IXP1200, and goes into some details on Network Classification Language. Throughout the book, the challenges and issues that face the design of a network processor are also described.
Although this book provides a good overview, I feel that more technical details would make the book even more informative. For example, although a few general algorithms are presented for some of the packet processing functions, it would be useful to also present in some detail the instruction sets for a few of the commercial network processors, and explain how these instructions can be combined to implement these functions. Alternatively, a minimal instruction set could be developed and used for the purpose of the book to illustrate the principles/tradeoffs that are mentioned. In short, more details on the implementation aspects would be helpful.
Rating: 1 out of 5
This books lacks any useful content on NP technology
The first half of the book discusses TCP/IP and the second half discusses the IXP1200. The IXP1200 was end-of-lined well over a year ago. The book just paraphrases what one can find in Intel's well-written documentation (which is free). The discussion on TCP/IP is light and a condensed version of what you'd find in a first course on Networking. The algorithms discussed on the book are trivial at best. Who uses a linked-list to do an IP lookup? Also, the author does not cite anything useful other than a few RFCs so you have no where to go for further research. There is tons of interesting research in this area but I don't think this author is aware of any of it. I was hoping to see an academic survey of the current state of network system architecture and algorithms (LPM lookup, TCP lookup, zero-copy, data-plane vs. control-plane) that are used by the networks systems of today and tommorrow and how the network processor fits in. Unfortunately, there is none of that in this book. There is definately a need for a book in this area.
· IXP1200 Programming
· Intel Internet Exchange Architecture and Applications: A Practical Guide to Intel's Network Processors
· Network Processor Design : Issues and Practices, Volume 1
· IXP2400/2800 Programming: The Complete Microengine Coding Guide
· Network Processors : Architectures, Protocols and Platforms (Telecom Engineering)