Network Processor Adoption Continues Showing Evidence That Market Is Poised for Takeoff, IDC Says

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA – MAY 15, 2001 – The hype surrounding the network processor unit (NPU) market has subsided, but the growth potential still remains lucrative for the future. According to IDC, several semiconductor vendors have achieved significant design wins (commitments from OEMs to develop a system around an NPU) across a variety of LAN, WAN, access, and other networking markets. In a recent study, IDC has found that trends are starting to emerge showing where NPUs have their strongest usage in the market.


"Although the NPU promise of widespread displacement of ASICs within most networking markets is still far-off, the increasing number of design wins, especially in certain high-growth equipment segments, such as multiservice WAN switches, next-generation SONET, DSLAMs, and others, will continue to spark further demand into the future," said Sean Lavey, program manager for IDC’s Communication Semiconductors program. "However, the reality of each vendor’s potential sales growth will vary significantly due to the quality of its design win activities."

IDC has categorized the design wins in the market by OEM-type (tier-1, tier-2/3, and start-up) and by detailed market applications. According to IDC, NPUs are clearly focused on replacing the datapath ASIC opportunities within WAN system applications, with this segment accounting for approximately 64% of all NPU design wins. Access market applications followed to account for 16% of all design wins, while LAN market applications, which were the initial users of NPUs, fell to account for only 12% of the design win activity.

IDC believes AMCC and Conexant remained the market share revenue leaders in 2000 as these two vendors combined to own over 96% of the total market. However, leading competitors, such as Agere Systems, IBM, Intel, Motorola, and Vitesse, continue to improve their market position.

"A few vendors are expected to gain some ground by the end of 2001, building an important track record to protect themselves against the eventual market shakeout," Lavey said. "In 2001, on-time delivery of higher-performance NPUs with line-rate support above OC-48c, continued software development improvements, and increased partnerships with synergistic third-party software and chipset providers will become more critical for certain vendors to distance themselves from the pack. During the next few years, we foresee only a handful of high-end NPU platforms delivering the significant time-to-market design benefits that OEMs are searching for."

IDC’s bulletin, Network Processor Update: Design Win Momentum Building (IDC #B24668), examines the network processor market. Detailed design win count data is provided to analyze the future rollout of NPU-based systems. NPU design win counts are included for the following vendors: Agere Systems, AMCC, Conexant, IBM, Intel, Motorola, and Vitesse. In addition, the report also reviews other related network processing chipsets, such as CAM-based search engines, classification coprocessors, and high-performance traffic management chipsets. To purchase this bulletin, contact Patrick Steeves at 1-800-343-4952, extension 6787, or at

About IDC

IDC delivers dependable, high-impact insights and advice on the future of ebusiness, the Internet, and technology to help organizations make sound business decisions. IDC forecasts worldwide markets and trends and analyzes business strategies, technologies, and vendors, using a combination of rigorous primary research and in-depth competitive analysis. IDC provides global research with local content through more than 700 analysts in 43 countries worldwide. IDC's customers comprise the world's leading IT suppliers, IT organizations, ebusiness companies, and the financial community. Additional information can be found at

IDC is a division of IDG, the world's leading IT media, research and exposition company.


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