Inside Advanced Scale Challenges|Wednesday, December 12, 2018
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Netcope Unveils Cloud-Based Solution to Make FPGA Programming More Accessible 

Nov. 15, 2017 -- Netcope Technologies has recently unveiled a product going by the moniker NP4 (Netcope P4). With it, the company has brought to daylight an entirely new concept of “Firmware as a Service”. With it, FPGA firmware design just became completely outsourceable to anyone who can describe network functions with P4 language.

The P4 programming language is a high level declarative language, so it is much more accessible to network operators who wish to leverage programmable hardware in their solutions, but lack HDL skills. The spread of P4 in the networking industry is being spearheaded by Barefoot Networks and Netcope, as a proud member of P4 Consortium, started to work with P4 immediately after it had been made available to the broader public. P4 to VHDL translator, Netcope’s first P4-related technology, has been announced roughly a year ago.

But the P4 to VHDL translator was just a sneak peek of what Netcope planned to do with P4. Since all of the company’s products are based around FPGA technology, the result expectedly took form of full-on P4+FPGA combo. It is the cloud-based service NP4 that drastically simplifies the process of FPGA programming. Write the P4 code, upload it to the NP4 cloud, wait for the application to autonomously translate the P4 code into a VHDL code and do the firmware synthesis. Then download the firmware bitstream and upload it to your FPGA appliance. That is the process of using NP4 as a customer.

From a broader perspective, NP4 is a representation of the tangible change that the network industry is going to be affected by. It is the “Firmware as a Service” concept. The process of firmware synthesis outsourcing described above can be taken advantage of in 2 major ways. The first way is relevant to those vendors and network operators who don't have any HDL engineers in their teams and wish to enjoy the flexibility of programmable hardware. The second way is relevant to those who are HDL proficient and prefer to have total control over their solutions, but wish to outsource some parts of the process in order to increase the overall output of their whole R&D operation.

Either way, just about anyone with programmable hardware in their networks can benefit from this new method of reconfiguration of network functions. “In addition to reducing time to market, NP4 brings additional diferentiation to the world of FPGA accelerators. Vendors of FPGA-accelerated appliances can now easily offer completely different feature sets, even if they use very similar hardware platform. We are fully committed to continuously improve the NP4 cloud service, and the list of features and extensions that we plan to add is impressive. In addition, everything in NP4 is designed for throughput of 100 Gbps or more.” says Viktor Puš, CTO of Netcope Technologies.

Source: Netcope Technologies

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