NetFPGA Open Platform Overview

The NetFPGA platform enables researchers and instructors to build working prototypes of high-speed, hardware-accelerated networking systems. The platform can be used in the classroom to teach students how to build Ethernet switches and Internet Prototcol (IP) routers using hardware rather than software. The platform can be used by researchers to prototype advanced services for next-generation networks.

The NetFPGA is an open platform and available to developers worldwide. Reference designs included with the system include an IPv4 router, an Ethernet switch, and a four-port NIC. Researchers have used the platform to build advanced network flow processing systems. Multiple platforms could be connected together to route packets over multiple subnets.

The system consists of a reprogrammable development board, reference implementations, and sample courseware. The development board itself is a PCI card that can be installed in any PC with an available full-length slot. Hosted on the board are a user-programmable FPGA (with two PowerPC processors), SRAM, DRAM, and four 1Gbps Ethernet ports.

Programming and administration of the development board are performed by the host PC via the PCI bus. This allows users to remotely develop and deploy designs since physical access to the board is not required.

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We now have over 1,000 NetFPGA devices around the world. On August 4, 2009, Digilent Inc. (the company that manufactures and distributes the NetFPGA) shipped that 1,000th card to another end user in Korea. A map that shows the worldwide locations of the deployed hardware is on-line.

-john lockwood