Fujitsu Fuels Net Processor Hopes

Yet another OEM confesses to the use of network processors. Will others follow?

February 13, 2003

2 Min Read
Fujitsu Fuels Net Processor Hopes

Applied Micro Circuits Corp. (AMCC) (Nasdaq: AMCC) today announced a network-processor design win with Fujitsu Ltd. (KLS: FUJI.KL), extending a streak of design-win announcements for network processor companies (see Fujitsu Picks AMCC's Processors).

Neither Fujitsu nor AMCC would reveal which devices are being used in Fujitsu's GeoStream R900 line of IP routers, but it's some combination of AMCC's OC48 chips, which include a network processor, traffic manager, and switch fabric.Jeff Cashen, vice president of AMCC's switching and network processing division, would not discuss how much money the Fujitsu contract represents, although he asserts that it's one of AMCC's bigger deals. "It's up there, certainly," he says.

It's been rare for OEMs to admit to using network processors, but that could change starting this year. Just this week, Silicon Access Networks Inc. revealed a design win (see Silicon Access Nabs Huawei), and nearly every network-processor vendor claims to be on the verge of announcing a deal with a Tier 1 customer.

For the past two years, network processor vendors have been under a virtual gag order regarding design wins, because those Tier 1 customers supposedly wouldn't give permission to be named. Many were just beginning to switch from home-grown ASICs to off-the-shelf network processors and weren't comfortable admitting it; others considered their sources trade secrets.

And for some OEMs, that's still the case. "For a lot of guys, they took their crown jewels and they transferred them to us. They don't want anybody to know until they've released the box, until somebody can buy it, tear it apart, and see what's inside," Cashen says.

But OEMs are beginning to loosen up, as network processors become more of an industry fixture. "There's no reason now for the systems guy to hide what's inside the box," says John Metz, principal analyst with Metz International Ltd.

Another factor is that OEMs don't like to talk about systems until they've hit the market -- and that's only now happening for the first wave of network-processor boxes. For example, the Fujitsu deal was one of AMCC's earlier network-processor contracts, with discussions that began "a couple of years ago," Cashen says.

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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