Today I received the first of several books which I hope will illuminate the world of hardware specially-built for networking tasks. This book is Network Processors: Architectures, Protocols, and Platforms by Panos Lekkas and published by McGraw-Hill. A network processor is a programmable processor designed specifically for processing packets. They are an alternative to Application-Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs), which cost about $1 million each to design.
The same day I received this book, I also got the new copy of Cisco's IP Journal. This is a free quarterly newsletter I recommend every networking professional read. In a dash of Police-esque synchronicity, the first article is by Douglas Comer and introduces readers to network processors. I am looking forward to reading Prof. Comer's Network Systems Design with Network Processors, Agere Version. His article alludes to a version of that book for the Intel 2xxx family of network processors.