Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)
Ternary content addressable memories (TCAMs) are widely used in network devices to implement packet classification. They are used, for example, for packet forwarding, for security, and to implement software-defined networks (SDNs). TCAMs are commonly implemented as standalone devices or as an intellectual property block that is integrated on networking application-specific integrated circuits. On the other hand, field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) do not include TCAM blocks. However, the flexibility of FPGAs makes them attractive for SDN implementations, and most FPGA vendors provide development kits for SDN. Those need to support TCAM functionality and, therefore, there is a need to emulate TCAMs using the logic blocks available in the FPGA. In recent years, a number of schemes to emulate TCAMs on FPGAs have been proposed. Some of them take advantage of the large number of memory blocks available inside modern FPGAs to use them to implement TCAMs. A problem when using memories is that they can be affected by soft errors that corrupt the stored bits. The memories can be protected with a parity check to detect errors or with an error correction code to correct them, but this requires additional memory bits per word. In this brief, the protection of the memories used to emulate TCAMs is considered. In particular, it is shown that by exploiting the fact that only a subset of the possible memory contents are valid, most single-bit errors can be corrected when the memories are protected with a parity bit.