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Procket Processes a Dream Team

Light Reading
News Analysis
Light Reading

Procket Networks Inc. is causing quite a buzz these days, including the rumor that it's gotten a record pre-IPO valuation from its backers -- by some estimates as high as $3 billion.

Procket's not saying exactly what it's doing. But industry sources say the company is working on a network processor that would power terabit routers and other broadband IP gear. Questions remain as to whether Procket's also planning to release its own terabit router.

What's fueling the excitement over the company? A glance at Procket's Website gives a partial answer. The management includes Tony Li, the designer who worked on the M40 router at Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR) and the GSR 12000 at Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO). Li's serving as Procket's chief scientist and director of software engineering.

Procket's management also includes CEO Sharad Mehrotra, who helped create the UltraSPARC-V chip at Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW), and president and CTO William Lynch, former lead architect for Sun's UltraSPARC IV.

It's a stellar lineup, with plenty of chip expertise. And that seems to be a strong indicator that Procket is working on something in the network processor space. If so, it would be joining a growing number of vendors intent on producing generic components for next-generation IP gear (see Network Processors Proliferate).

Procket investors include Institutional Venture Partners, New Enterprise Associates, Redpoint Ventures, and U.S Venture Partners. But they're not talking either, especially about investment figures.

The membership of its board of directors and advisory board is another eyecatcher. It reads like a "who's who" of broadband networking: Scott Bradner, senior technical consultant at Harvard University who's a well-known leader in IP standards and testing activities; Vint Cerf, currently senior VP at WorldCom Inc. (Nasdaq: WCOM) and cocreator of the TCP/IP protocol; Pushpendra Mohta, an Internet pioneer from NSFnet and CERFnet who now works at Benchmark Capital; and Michael O'Dell, chief scientist and cofounder of Uunet -- to name just a few.

But observers think the proof will be in the pudding. A great marquee does not a product make. And as for advisory boards: "They're great for PR and stock options. But I'm not sure how much they actually contribute to product development," says Mark Lutkowitz, president of consultancy Trans-Formation Inc..

Competitors have Procket on the radar but they're not worried -- yet. "We haven't seen them turn up at customer sites. Whatever they're building, it'll take them at least nine to twelve months," says Doug Antaya, VP of marketing for Ironbridge Networks Inc., a company in the core router market (see Ironbridge Goes Virtual).

-- Mary Jander, senior editor, Light Reading http://www.lightreading.com

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