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Net Processors Dip Into DSL

Startup Wintegra Inc. has always targeted edge networks, meaning its chips are a bit lower-end than most network processors. And with this week's move into the market for digital subscriber line (DSL) equipment, you might say Wintegra is hitting a new low (in a good way).

The company announced two new network processors Monday, smaller versions of its WIN737 network processor and built for the low-cost needs of smaller DSLAMs. Wintegra uses only one processor engine in each of the new chips, whereas its previous products used two or four.

Both new devices target DSLAMs, particularly smaller ones, but they differ in their uplink capabilities. The WIN717D6 is meant for T1/E1 uplinks, while the WIN717D4 connects to a 100-Mbit/s Ethernet uplink (see Wintegra Targets DSL). In other words, the D6 targets ATM-based build-outs in North America, while the D4 has newer Asian networks in mind.

Both parts are sampling now. Wintegra hasn't released prices, but Robert O'Dell, vice president of marketing, says each chip sells at less than $100, compared with about $150 for the WIN737.

There's more to the new chips than cutting out hardware, though. On the software side, Wintegra added some features particular to DSL. For example, the new chips can use Layer 2 information to filter packets. That's a common exercise used in thwarting denial-of-service attacks, but DSL providers had some additional applications in mind.

"The operators are getting smarter about what they want to allow to occur on the DSL lines -- for instance how many computers they want to be connected to a line," O'Dell says. With the advent of the Wireless LAN, it's become possible for one person to subscribe to a DSL or cable-modem service, then share it (intentionally or not) with the neighbors.

Most network processor vendors targeted fancy core and metro networks at first, and they're making accommodations now that edge and access networks are the best game in town (see Net Processors Aim for Access). But Wintegra had lower-end markets in mind all along.

The company was founded in 2000 amid a sea of network processor startups. Trying to stand out somehow, Wintegra shunned the OC768 and all-IP dreams that the others were chasing, and instead concentrated on ATM-minded chips for access and edge networks.

Lo and behold, the market caved in, and equipment vendors started developing legacy-friendly products that played into Wintegra's hand. And the fact that the company started with inexpensive chips has allowed it to move into areas such as DSL, where many network processors would be overkill, particularly in terms of cost.

It seems to have worked so far, as Wintegra claims to have more than 60 design wins. The company has grown to 85 employees and has raised $39 million in funding, one third of it in a round last March (see Wintegra Pockets $13M).

Wintegra has plans to extend itself at the (relatively) high end of the spectrum as well. Two product announcements are slated for the Embedded Processor Forum in June, with detailed information to follow later in the month at the Network Processors Conference.

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading
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