Chip Startup Plans OC768

Azanda Network Devices says it holds the key to high-speed chips for optical switches

January 29, 2001

3 Min Read
Chip Startup Plans OC768

A California startup claims to hold the key to making switches and routers capable of supporting Sonet OC768 (40 Gbit/s).

Azanda Network Devices says it holds the key to making switches and routers capable of supporting Sonet OC768. The startup hopes to offer samples of a "traffic management chip" later this year that will support OC192 (10 Gbit/s) and OC768 Sonet rates. The chip, Azanda says, is a network processor designed to sit next to a switch fabric on a line card inside a switch or router. It will control the flow of data -- shaping, scheduling, and assigning priorities to specific types of traffic.

Azanda is among the first vendors to attempt to make a network processor chip that supports OC768. Network processors are off-the-shelf chipsets designed to perform specific functions -- such as packet filtering -- in switches, routers, and other network devices. For makers of networking gear, they provide an alternative to buying costly, customized ASICs (application-specific integrated circuits). It's a growing market inhabited by a troop of other newcomers (see Network Processors Proliferate).

Azanda says its claim to fame will be its ability to create a sophisticated chip out of mundane materials. It is eschewing fancy substrates and instead will focus on making a CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor) chip out of silicon. "Our focus is not going to be on exotic technologies in the early stages," says CEO Bidyut Parruck, whose last post was at Paxonet Communications Inc. (see Chip "Could Boost Metro Market").

Parruck says Azanda's found a way to supercharge its chips via new algorithms, some of which are dedicated to using memory more effectively. This, he says, is one of the major challenges of going to 40 Gbit/s. "Over 5 Gbit/s, bandwidth management is no longer easy on DRAM. You have to do something different with chips that manage bandwidth." So far, Parruck says, the company has seven patents pending on its techniques.

Parruck feels Azanda's focus will help distinguish it from other makers of network processors, such as ZettaCom Inc. (see Zettacom: Hurry Up and Wait). "They've taken so much on, it's going to be hard for them to deliver it all," says Parruck.

But Azanda faces competition from other sources, too. To succeed, it will have to contend not only with network processor startups but also with established players designing their own OC768 chips, including Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU) and Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT). Nortel's been demonstrating its OC768 chips for months now, although no announcements have yet been made of its availability.

Azanda will be up against flashy newcomers as well -- including CyOptics Inc. (see Vendors Prepare for 40 Gigabit Future), which has started sampling its OC768 chip, and Mintera Corp. (see Sycamore’s Stealth 40-Gig Strategy ). Challenges also will come from traditional chipmakers, such as Applied Micro Circuits Corp. (AMCC) (Nasdaq: AMCC), PMC-Sierra Inc. (Nasdaq: PMCS), and Vitesse Semiconductor Corp. (Nasdaq: VTSS).

Whether Azanda can succeed remains to be seen. In the meantime, it's all systems go for the startup, which opened its doors officially in May 2000. In addition to Parruck, the management team includes:

Azanda has approximately 45 employees, nearly all of whom are engineers. The startup has $10 million in series A funding from Bessemer Venture Partners, Commonwealth Venture Partners, Goldman Sachs & Co. (NYSE: GS), and Highland Capital Partners. Another round is planned for the March timeframe, Parruck says.

-- Mary Jander, senior editor, Light Reading

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