High Performance Layer 3 Forwarding - The Need for Dedicated Hardware Solutions

Classless Inter-Domain Routing (RFC 1519) was established to enable more efficient allocation of the IPv4 address space and ushered in a new routing paradigm requiring new approaches to handling packet forwarding. These new approaches called for additional support for route aggregation in the routing protocols and a consistent routing algorithm (the "Longest Prefix Match") to determine the most specific route to a destination. Router designers were challenged to come up with fast and efficient algorithms for solving the Longest Prefix Match problem, and responded with designs that worked well at what were then considered high speeds. This white paper reviews the requirements for an IPv4 packet forwarding solution and the tradeoffs inherent in software, hardware, ternary content addressable memory (CAM), or dedicated co-processor packet forwarding implementations, and shows why a dedicated co-processor solution is the ideal packet forwarding solution.

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