Each of the new processors serves a slightly different function. The IXP420 powers broadband access through external modems. The IXP421 has similar features but also includes support for IP telephony. The IXP422 supports home-office gateways, wireless access points, cryptography, and routers and switches used by small and midsize companies.
Network processors ensure that data moves across the network at the proper speed. "It's becoming extremely important to handle packet processing at home offices as well as small and medium businesses, which are just starting to understand how to use network processors," says Hank Allard, Intel's IXP4XX product manager. By integrating the data, voice, and security features on its new network processors, Intel's goal is to let carriers offer affordable broadband connectivity and wireless LAN access, Allard says.
Although spending on core networking applications has slowed over the past few years, carriers are starting to invest in apps at the edge of the network that help customers access their networks, says Sanjay Iyer, a senior analyst with the Linley Group. Intel's new processors are expected to help drive down the cost of broadband and wireless access. "The new network processors will let carriers offer more pricing options and features with their access services," he says.
Intel will begin shipping the processors in March, with larger volumes of the IXP420 and IXP422 to follow in June. The IXP421 will ship in volume by September. Pricing for quantities of 10,000 starts at $20.90 per processor.