Netcope P4

P4 is a high-level language for programming protocol-independent packet processing. It has been defined in order to enable easy programmability of network data plane processing agnostic to underlying technology, e.g. ASIC, CPU or FPGA. We present a new concept of Firmware as a Service that allows to generate FPGA firmware based on P4 description through a user-friendly web interface called Netcope P4. The process is totally transparent and automatic for the user.

Video presentation Download Netcope P4 product brief


Since designing in an HDL (hardware description language) is a non-trivial task not only from the point of view of expert hardware knowledge, but also because of complex development tools that are not easy to utilize. We took a different direction. We make the process of firmware generation totally transparent for our users and provide a web interface to input a P4 sources and download firmware bitstreams. In other words, a user doesn't need to know HDL to program Netcope Smart NICs. The user puts in P4 code, sees if it checks and they have firmware with the desired functions in no time. 

Netcope P4 is an all around efficient solution. Firmware architecture independent on HDL expertise reduces expenses, automatic firmware generation saves time, and total flexibility of Netcope accelerators protects future investments.

Our online portal works as simple as any other online services like Gmail. After entering user’s login credentials, a list of tasks with their statuses appears. A new task is created by uploading the user’s P4 source codes. In the first phase, the user’s P4 source code is checked for correctness. In the case it does not pass this check, problem description is provided and the user can fix his or her code. If everything goes well, the synthesis begins automatically. As it takes some time, the user is notified when the task is finished and they are ready to download and use their firmware. Happy P4’ing!


P4 to VHDL Compiler Continue to Netcope P4 portal


Features & Benefits

  • Programmable protocol stack

  • User-defined packet processing

  • No knowledge of HDL required

  • No Vivado license required

  • No synthesis tools and servers needed

  • Firmware as a Service

  • User-friendly online portal

  • Efficient P4 to VHDL compiler


Use Cases

  • In-band network telemetry

  • Network troubleshooting and fine-tuning

  • Customizing header fields for hash-based distribution over CPU cores

  • Stripping and inserting headers of encapsulation protocols

  • Hardware repurposing for extended lifetime cycle

  • Many more are yet to be discovered, as P4 is still an emerging technology

Firmware as a Service


Company A

Company A is a company without an FPGA team, but with at least one coder who can write code in P4.

  • The coder uploads the P4 code to the cloud-based part of the FaaS solution.

  • The P4 code is translated into VHDL and the firmware synthesis can now begin.

  • Once the synthesis is finished, the operator will receive a notification that they can now download the Bitstream A.

The process of translation of P4 code into bitstream or netlist works fully autonomously. Netcope team functions here to add new features or to provide support to customers with special requirements.

Company B

Company B is a larger company with an internal FGPA team that can program FPGAs directly. However, in many cases it is still commercially viable to outsource the FPGA prgramming through FaaS.

  • The P4 coder uploads the P4 description that represents a component of the final firmware.

  • The same applies as in the case of Company A, only now the coder downloads Netlist B corresponding to the desired component to be used in the final firmware.

  • Company B's FPGA team can now put together Netlist B and their own HDL description of the final firmware. The synthesis can now begin in Company B's firmware lab.

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