Comms chips

Ample Gets Trampled

Once promising chip startup Ample Communications Inc. has run out of money, sources say, prompting the company to shut down early this month.

Ample's Ethernet and Ethernet-over-Sonet chips could live on, though. Sources from the semiconductor and equipment sectors say Ample is on the verge of selling some of its portfolio to a company that intends to continue supporting the products.

Ample was continuing to rack up design wins last year, when Force10 Networks Inc. and H3C Technologies Co. Ltd. got announced as customers. (See Huawei-3Com Selects Ample and Force10 Picks Ample.)

In fact, while Ample never got big, one source from the chip industry describes the company has having "ramping" revenues. Another said it's a "no-brainer" for some more established chip company to carry on with Ample's sales, "because the design costs are taken care of."

A deal for Ample's assets appears to be within weeks of closing. Sources flag Applied Micro Circuits Corp. (Nasdaq: AMCC), Marvell Technology Group Ltd. (Nasdaq: MRVL), PMC-Sierra Inc. (Nasdaq: PMCS), or Vitesse Semiconductor Corp. (Nasdaq: VTSS) as potential buyers.

If Ample's stuff is so good, why couldn't the company succeed? The problem, according to one source familiar with Ample's business, is that its market just wasn't large enough, providing revenues of around $10 million a year -- not enough to drive an IPO.

The source adds that Ample tried to spur an acquisition by getting into the desktop market with a Gigabit Ethernet controller, a part that got announced in May 2006. No deal surfaced, though, and Ample eventually began cutting staff as its funds dried up.

Ample had raised at least $62 million in four rounds. The company's investors at one time or another included Center Point Venture Partners , InterWest Partners , Kinetic Ventures , Milestone Merchant Partners LLC, Rho Ventures , and Storm Ventures .

Ample officials couldn't be located for comment. The company's phone network remains active, but no one seems to be there to take calls. A call to one of Ample's investors yesterday went unreturned.

Ample was founded in 2000 and got picked for Light Reading's Top Ten Private Companies in 2002. The company was targeting a high-end market, offering chips for OC192 and 10-Gbit/s Ethernet linecards, and a 40-Gbit/s framer targeting early 40-Gbit/s designs.

The management team had some cachet, too. CEO Vish Akella had helped found Kalpana and Stratacom, two networking pioneers eventually acquired by Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO). (See Ample Crams in the Ports and Ample Networks.)

As the telecom downturn wore on, Ample had to scale down its ambitions. In 2003, it released Harrier, a 1-Gbit/s Ethernet-over-Sonet chip -- featured in the Force10 and Huawei-3Com customer announcements. (See Ample Evangelizes Ethernet.)

From there, Ample built a 10-Gbit/s Ethernet MAC called Redhawk. And the company tried extending into new markets with Eagle, a Harrier successor targeting IPTV access devices. (See Ample Samples More 10GE and Ample Does Video.)

It appears Ample had about 95 employees at its peak, split between California and India.

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 3:03:46 PM
re: Ample Gets Trampled My first guess was Cortina, since they're in this space and have shown a penchant for buying. The Ample chips might go well with the parts Cortina acquired from Intel.

But one source is telling us it's definitely a public company that's the frontrunner. So much for that theory.

It's a smart buy for someone. Not a life-changing one, but useful.
dsoubra 12/5/2012 | 3:03:14 PM
re: Ample Gets Trampled Press release went out today.

Acquired for $4.6M
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