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For routers and switches to handle ever-increasing bandwidth requirements, the packet "Fast-path" must be handled with specialized hardware. There have been two approaches to building such packet forwarding hardware. The first is to embed particular algorithms in hardware; this is what most commodity forwarding chips do (e.g., those from Broadcom, Marvell, and Fulcrum). These chips have led to amazing increases in performance and reductions in cost; for instance, one can now get 24 ports of gigabit ethernet for under $1000.
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