Comms chips

Dune's Prospects

4:40 PM -- The multichassis router market hasn't gotten to 92 Tbit/s (or really 46 Tbit/s) levels yet, but it's getting there, according to chipmaker Dune Networks .

"Recently, we had a request to multichassis 20 chassis together," Ori Aruj, Dune's vice president of marketing, was telling me a couple of months ago. Recall, it would take 72 Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) CRS-1s to make that 46-Tbit/s promise. (To my knowledge, the CRS-1 isn't using Dune.)

Granted, the 20-chassis job is not exactly mainstream. And it's not a guarantee of future success for Dune, or for competing products from companies like Applied Micro Circuits Corp. (Nasdaq: AMCC) or Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM). Dune claims its devices are designed into 100 products total at 40 systems vendors, but the real promise of an off-the-shelf switch fabric arises when each vendor starts using them across wide varieties of products, supposedly speeding up development times. (See Dune: They're Still Alive.) The problem is the same one that was there in 1999: This requires handing the company's product roadmap over to Dune. Not literally, but the switch fabric tends to be one of the earliest decisions in a system's design, and it's not easily changed. If Dune goes under, or gets bought by a company that discontinues the wrong chips -- there goes an entire swath of planned products.

Maybe that's one reason why systems vendors like Cisco are so reluctant to admit they're using even network processors from the outside. (See Chipping Away at Cisco's ASR 9000 and Cisco's EZ 400-Gig.)

Even so, some large vendor is apparently taking a chance on Dune. Process of elimination suggests it's Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) or Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. Whether it's enough for the IPO Dune might still be dreaming of, who knows.

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

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