Energy-Efficient TCAM Search Engine Design Using Priority-Decision in Memory Technology

Hsiang Jen Tsai, Keng Hao Yang, Yin Chi Peng, Chien Chen Lin, Ya Han Tsao, Meng Fan Chang, Tien-Fu Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Ternary content-addressable memory (TCAM)-based search engines generally need a priority encoder (PE) to select the highest priority match entry for resolving the multiple match problem due to the don't care (X) features of TCAM. In contemporary network security, TCAM-based search engines are widely used in regular expression matching across multiple packets to protect against attacks, such as by viruses and spam. However, the use of PE results in increased energy consumption for pattern updates and search operations. Instead of using PEs to determine the match, our solution is a three-phase search operation that utilizes the length information of the matched patterns to decide the longest pattern match data. This paper proposes a promising memory technology called priority-decision in memory (PDM), which eliminates the need for PEs and removes restrictions on ordering, implying that patterns can be stored in an arbitrary order without sorting their lengths. Moreover, we present a sequential input-state (SIS) scheme to disable the mass of redundant search operations in state segments on the basis of an analysis distribution of hex signatures in a virus database. Experimental results demonstrate that the PDM-based technology can improve update energy consumption of nonvolatile TCAM (nvTCAM) search engines by 36%-67%, because most of the energy in these search engines is used to reorder. By adopting the SIS-based method to avoid unnecessary search operations in a TCAM array, the search energy reduction is around 64% of nvTCAM search engines.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7811304
Pages (from-to)962-973
Number of pages12
JournalIEEE Transactions on Very Large Scale Integration (VLSI) Systems
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2017


  • Deep packet inspection or virus detection
  • memory architecture
  • network security
  • nonvolatile ternary content-addressable memory (TCAM)
  • priority-decision in memory (PDM)

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