The processor is the heart and soul of any computing system, whether that system is a tablet, personal computer, mobile phone or server. But not all processors are created equal, not by a long shot. Just about everyone knows what an Intel Pentium is, but what they might not know is what kind of processor it has.
A central processing unit (CPU) is somewhat different from other processors found in computer devices, and those different processors are necessary for different types of computational tasks. For example, a network processor is not just a CPU, but rather a whole integrated circuit designed to do heavy data and network processing. While these network processing units might share some similarities to the generic CPU, they differ in several ways. Here are four traits that distinguish processor units meant for handling a network of users.
Network processors power servers (centralized software programs) that are connected to multiple client computer terminals and act as holding and distribution centers for data on the web or in private networks. This requires a lot of power and high speed.
The very definition of a network means to be connected, or have the capacity to connect, to a multitude of other computers and users. While this is, of course, what makes the miracle of the Internet, it also opens the computer and, consequently its hardware, up to risk. Network processors are designed with multiple defense mechanisms built into the hardware in an effort to protect against hackers and others who might attempt to damage or coerce the machine. This protection ranges from multiple encryption modes to its own security engine.
3. Layer 2 Network Processors
In computer lingo, the second layer refers to the data link layer in a network, between either a wide area network (WAN) or a local area network (LAN). Layer 2 requires advanced computational abilities in order for the processor to efficiently disburse information and maintain links with each computer in its network.
4. Media Access Control
Commonly referred to as “MAC,” this classification refers to an identification system for recognizing devices that wish to connect to a router or server. Every device that connects to a network has a MAC address, but a network processor can have up to sixteen or more MAC addresses dedicated to it. In common terms, what this means is versatility. More MAC addresses allow the processor to provide several forms of connecting options for users.
It’s not likely that the home user will need to go shopping for the advanced processors found in server solutions, but just in case one does find themselves in such a position, keep in mind some of these important characteristics and select the right processor for your application.
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