1. A network switching apparatus comprising:multiple data unit sources configured to receive data units, each of the data units having a control portion and a payload portion;
multiple control paths, each control path coupled to a different data unit source, the data unit sources configured to send first portions of the data units along the control paths, the first portions including control portions;
multiple data paths, separate from the control paths, each data path coupled to a different data unit source, the data unit sources configured to send payload portions of the data units along the data paths;
an adaptive distributor configured to receive the first portions via the multiple control paths, the adaptive distributor comprising a buffer memory in which the adaptive distributor is configured to temporarily buffer the first portions until the first portions are ready for processing by a shared packet processor;
the shared packet processor, configured to receive the first portions from the adaptive distributor, and to generate control information based on the control portions found in the first portions;
a demuxer configured to receive the control information from the shared packet processor;
merger subsystems, each merger subsystem configured to receive payload portions via a different data path of the multiple data paths, and to receive control information from the demuxer for the data units whose payload portions they receive, the merger subsystems further configured to output the data units with the control information generated for the data units.