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Leading Lights Finalists 2014: Outstanding Components Vendor

Ray Le Maistre

To recognize the critical role that components companies play in this industry of ours, Light Reading this year introduced the Outstanding Components Vendor category to its annual awards program, the Leading Lights. (See Leading Lights 2014: The Finalists.)

The category was created to recognize the components vendor that stands out from its competitors, innovates constantly, helps set the industry trends, makes investors proud, and makes employees happy.

The industry responded with fantastic submissions. Here are the seven companies that made the shortlist (in alphabetical order), and the key reasons why they made the cut:

EZchip Semiconductor Ltd.
This profitable, fabless high-speed Ethernet network processor vendor is experiencing significant growth, having increased its annual revenues by 30% year-on-year in 2013 to $71 million and expecting to increase that total again in 2014. EZchip Technologies Ltd. (Nasdaq: EZCH) has been developing its chips for the introduction of SDN and NFV in data center and wide area networks, with the NPS range offering a clear separation between the data and control planes. It has expanded that family of products to include the NPS-400, which offers 400 Gbit/s performance. The NPS portfolio has broadened EZchip's target market beyond its traditional target customers, the router vendors, to include data center equipment vendors and cloud services players that design their own packet transport platforms. Now EZchip has its eye on the "white box" market, seeing a chance to supply manufacturers with the merchant chips needed at the core of such products.

Long-time optical player JDSU (Nasdaq: JDSU; Toronto: JDU) has been targeting a reduction in space and power requirements with the development of its Super Transport blade, which collapses the functions of up to 5 blades onto one. The company notes that by building an 8-blade system using Super Transport (instead of 40 blades), power consumption is but by half and physical space requirements are cut by 80%, significant metrics for companies developing transport platforms for metro networks, where space and power consumption are critical metrics.

In addition, the company introduced the industry's first flexible spectrum twin WSS (wavelength selective switching) device, the Trueflex Twin 1x20, and a quad optical channel monitor (OCM), in mid-2013. The product incorporates two WSS components into a single form factor, so taking up less space. JDSU has since expanded the TrueFlex portfolio by adding two new elements, a twin MxN WSS and the Trueflex Micro 1x9 WSS platform. All TrueFlex products support flexible grid spacing, also known as flex spectrum, and the associated performance that is critical for increased network capacity as network data rates move beyond 100G. JDSU says it has secured multiple design wins for TrueFlex ROADM line cards, which incorporate the flexible spectrum WSS and OCM devices, and has the largest design pipeline for transport line cards in the company's history. (See JDSU Is Still an Optical Force and JDSU Preps Optical Components, Test Gear for OFC.)

LSI Corp.
When network processor specialist LSI entered this year's Leading Lights awards, it was an independent company. Now, though, it is owned by Avago Technologies Pte. following the completion of the $6.6 billion takeover deal on May 6. (See Bit Parts: Following the Optical Money.)

Our awards, though, focuses on the period April 1, 2013, to March 31, 2014, during which time the company launched the AXM5500 Communication Processor, the first product instantiation of the ARM CoreLink CCN-504 Cache Coherent Network Interconnect, and the first multicore communication processor integrating 160 Gbit/s of Ethernet Switching with over 50 Gbit/s of programmable packet processing. LSI says the product, designed with the greater capacity, power efficiency and integration demanded by 4G LTE networks, has been selected by several major network equipment vendors for new base station and backhaul products.

M/A-COM Technology Solutions
Chip vendor M/A-COM Technology Solutions Inc. (MACOM) serves multiple markets, from all manner of communications, to medical, automotive and military. In the comms market it addresses the needs of the optical transport sector, from fiber access to long-haul core network infrastructure, addressing the high performance analog interfaces between the electrical and optical domains with products such as modulator drivers, transimpedance amplifiers, and laser drivers. The company has set its sights on being one of the lead players in the 100G components market, and to further that ambition it acquired Mindspeed Technologies for $272 million, Since that deal, MACOM says it has made "made excellent progress integrating the two companies, which has set us on the path of being the clear leader across all 100G segments, all physical layer products, and all requisite technologies." (See MACOM to Buy Mindspeed for $272M.)

Napatech 's network accelerator appliances, which enable the capture and analysis of Ethernet data at very high speeds (up to 100 Gbit/s), are playing an increasingly important role in the design and development of network infrastructure platforms by the systems vendors as operators turn their attention to performance management, monitoring, and analytics. That's particularly important as operators seek real-time insight into OTT traffic on their networks (and try to figure out how to monetize it), and that is reflected in Napatech's improving sales. Napatech has been developing a new product, the NT100E3-1-PTP, which also incorporates nanosecond precision time-stamping of Ethernet frames on 100GigE connections, and real-time monitoring of temperature, voltage and power consumption.

NeoPhotonics Corp.
Photonic integrated circuit (PIC)-based optical components and modules specialist NeoPhonetics is well placed to benefit from the increasing demand for 100G coherent products in long-haul, metro and even data center sectors as the demand for smaller components that use less power but provide higher capacities intensifies. In the year to the end of March 2014, NeoPhotonics experienced increasing demand for its Integrated Coherent Receivers (ICR) and Narrow Linewidth Tunable Lasers (NLW ITLAs), and established itself as one of the leading players in client-side 100G optics, selling its own CFP and CFP2 transceivers as well as lasers, receivers and drivers used in others' transceivers. The company, which has been building its presence in China, noted that 37% of its revenues came from 100G products in the past year. (See NeoPhotonics Expands in China, NeoPhotonics Unveils 100G Coherent Components, and The Optical Market: A Health Check .)

Xilinx Inc.
Chipmaker Xilinx Inc. (Nasdaq: XLNX) is focused on being the lead provider of what it calls "all programmable" products, which focuses on ever-greater integration of hardware, software and I/O programmable devices for network communications systems. (See Xilinx: An 'All Programmable' Strategy.)

The company is also forging ahead in its efforts to be the leading provider of 400G chips: It has what it claims to be the only single-chip solution for 4x100G OTN transponders and 2x100G OTN switching applications, and has demonstrated a prototype 400 GigE core router with customer and partner Huawei based on Xilinx's high-end FPGA.

The company also introduced the concept of Softly Defined Networks, which highlights "the evolution from a SDN Fixed Data Plane to an All Programmable Intelligent Data Plane and the capability to address functionality that includes and goes beyond SDN [software-defined networking]." The concept is of a line card that incorporates inline functions that are under software control and which assigns an optimized hardware implementation based on the specified packet processing functions.

The Leading Lights winners and 2014 Hall of Fame inductees will be unveiled at the Leading Lights awards dinner, to be held the evening of Tuesday, June 17 at Chicago's Adler Planetarium. (For more details, see Bumper Year for the Leading Lights Awards.)

Stick around on Wednesday for the second day of Light Reading's Big Telecom Event, taking place at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers on June 17-18. (Details and the agenda are on our show site, Big Telecom Event.)

— Ray Le Maistre, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

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