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Building Your Own Router with NetFPGA

By stretch | Friday, July 23, 2010 at 6:16 p.m. UTC

Perusing the NANOG mailing list today, I came across a very interesting hardware project being run out of Stanford University: NetFPGA, a Field-Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) geared toward network device development. As in, building your own hardware IP router and/or Ethernet switch. It's essentially a mini-computer with four GigE interfaces that can be installed as a PCI card.



From the site:

As detailed in the specifications, the NetFPGA is a PCI card that contains a large Xilinx FPGA, 4 Gigabit Ethernet ports, Static RAM (SRAM), Double-Date Rate (DDR2) Dynamic RAM (DRAM). The card design is open-source and the hardware is made available at very low cost through donations of gifts and Silicon chips by sponsors of the NetFPGA project. The NetFPGA enables researchers and students to build working prototypes of high-speed, hardware-accelerated networking systems. The NetFPGA has been used in the classroom to help students learn how to build Gigabit Ethernet (GigE) switches and Internet Protocol (IP) routers. It has also been used by researchers to prototype new modules that use hardware rather than software to forward packets.

Full specifications are available here. Apparently they retail for $1200 ($500 for academia). Stanford is hosting a NetFPGA bootcamp of sorts next month. I just wish I was smart enough to work with something this awesome.

Posted in Hardware


July 23, 2010 at 9:12 p.m. UTC

Open Source? That just won't fly in our little Cisco world now, will it?

Karl Taylor
July 24, 2010 at 2:59 p.m. UTC

Recently at one of our site router went down due to hardware problem , it was very grim situation as our ERP was running on this network.When i contacted vendor they said it will take week or so to deliver the router. To overcome the situation I installed GNS3 on one system and after configuring proper routing my site was up within an hours and running successfully till now. As of NetFPGA I must say fantastic and best of luck to those who are working on it.

July 24, 2010 at 10:18 p.m. UTC

Ha "I just wish I was smart enough to work with something this awesome", you seem pretty smart to me Stretch but I've got to say that I feel like that some times too.

July 26, 2010 at 5:05 p.m. UTC

@Stretch: if you really want to do this type of stuff, you can get a job in QA at any of the NEMs (network equipment manufacturers), like Cisco or Juniper. I used to do it for FORE Systems/Marconi. You have to study the boards and learn what all the chips do and test them all out. It's pretty cool, but I find it much more interesting to implement the cool technology all over the place...I prefer to stay between Layers 1 - 7 if you know what I mean.

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