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Comms chips

Azanda Moves On

Chipmaker Azanda Network Devices has picked up another $10 million in funding, part of which will go toward developing an undisclosed new product line.

The round C funding, announced yesterday, comes from prior investors, including Bessemer Venture Partners, Commonwealth Capital Ventures, GS PEP Technology Fund, Highland Capital Partners, Newbury Ventures, and Wall Street Technology Partners LP (see Azanda Closes $10M Round).

As is fashionable this year, Azanda CEO Steve Dines says the money will get the company to profitability. It's also going to fund the development of a second family of products that Dines calls "traffic processing silicon." Dines wouldn't discuss details, but competitors assume Azanda is getting ready to integrate other functions into its traffic manager chip.

A traffic manager usually sits between a network processor and a switch fabric, prioritizing the incoming flows and applying quality of service (QOS). With the buzz surrounding video and voice offerings at the network edge, the function has gotten increased attention. (See Can Traffic Managers Save the World? and the Light Reading report, Traffic Manager Chips.)

Azanda and Teradiant Networks Inc. are the only companies offering traffic managers and nothing else. Many vendors sell a traffic manager chip but can also pair it up with a switch fabric or network processor; others integrate the function into one of those two chips.

Azanda isn't in danger of having its market integrated away, Dines contends. One factor that's kept the company alive is its deterministic architecture -- that is, it's easy to predict how long it takes traffic to flow through the chip. By contrast, network processors tend to be unpredictable due to the amount of programming required, making them a riskier bet. Determinism is often the "swing vote" that lets Azanda win jobs over the traffic-management function of a network processor, Dines says.

Still, the company has to stay at the higher end of the spectrum. It's too easy for another chip to handle traffic management at low speeds such as OC3 (155 Mbit/s), says Subhash Bal, Teradiant vice president of marketing. For that reason, Teradiant is targeting line cards with aggregate speeds of 10 Gbit/s and higher (see Traffic Managers Ready for Commute).

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading
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