Comms chips

Raza's Firm Slims Focus

Three-in-one chipmaker Raza Microelectronics Inc. (RMI) is starting to look more focused, as the company says it's going to concentrate mostly on its advanced packet-processing chips and let its oldest chip family fade into the background.

To fund its progress, RMI raised $20 million in a round last week. A new investor is Advanced Equities Financial Corp., a brokerage house and late-stage venture firm based in Chicago. The round also included prior investors Benchmark Capital , Duff Ackerman & Goodrich LLC (DAG) , Kodiak Venture Partners , and Warburg Pincus . (See Raza Micro Raises $20M.)

One chip-industry source suggests RMI had trouble getting other Silicon Valley firms to join the latest round, but RMI says that's more a factor of the company being beyond the early startup phase. "We've had an increased valuation, so why would we want to bring anybody else in?" says Chris Keil, RMI senior director of marketing.

Keil says the 100-employee firm has raised more than $120 million since inception. But the funding history is bit convoluted, given RMI's background.

RMI is a well known quantity in Silicon Valley due to founder Atiq Raza, a microprocessor guru whose previous startups took on Intel in the late 90s. During the bubble, he started Raza Foundries -- kind of a venture capital firm, but one that raised VC funding itself -- which enjoyed a couple of successful startup sales before the telecom crash hit. (See Raza Goes Micro.)

Three of Raza Foundries' projects got combined into RMI, giving that firm three separate chip families. Its first shipping products were microprocessors from a startup called Sandcraft, but RMI also crafted the Orion processor, aimed at boxes like multiservice provisioning platforms (MSPPs), and the XLR, a processor targeting a more general swath of networking appliances. (See Raza's Triple-Threat Revealed.)

XLR and Orion are both shipping, with 3G and wireless backhaul among the primary markets for both. XLR is also getting business in the security space, Keil says.

Sandcraft's chip family has provided the bulk of RMI's revenues so far, but, from now on, "the main focus is going to be around the XLR," Keil says. The Sandcraft line, called XL, will get less of RMI's R&D attention. "We're shipping in large volume, but it's a product we do not believe we will continue to invest in the development of."

A close competitor to XLR would be Cavium Inc. (Nasdaq: CAVM) with its Octeon products, chips that pack multiple microprocessor cores and can be programmed for a variety of tasks.

"We see RMI in the market, but typically in the high end," says Amer Haider, Cavium director of marketing. Keil says the XLR, while a high-end product, can scale down to suit lower-end systems.

Cavium claims it's got the edge over RMI in Layers 4 through 7 by having hardware-based features such as TCP acceleration and pattern matching; RMI counters by saying it's high performance, not individual high-layer functions, that matters, particularly in the security space.

Other competition in the embedded processor space includes heavyweights Freescale Semiconductor Inc. and Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC). Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM) and PMC-Sierra Inc. (Nasdaq: PMCS) have entries in this area as well.

Despite keeping the Raza name, RMI has shed a key part of its Raza Foundries history. Namely, it's moved out of the colossal Raza offices on North First Street in San Jose, to more humble digs in Cupertino, Calif. "We're not in the Batcave any more," Keil says.

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

myhui 12/5/2012 | 3:15:21 PM
re: Raza's Firm Slims Focus Is any network company shipping product with this chip inside?
lancywong123 12/5/2012 | 3:15:21 PM
re: Raza's Firm Slims Focus THey have the stability problem within the
Cache memory inside the chip so the system will
hang up in the middle of night.

CISCO has already decide not to use their product .
Pluse the processor sucking up a lot of power
HIGH current

I hope not too many network company use their
drone387 12/5/2012 | 3:15:19 PM
re: Raza's Firm Slims Focus http://www.theinquirer.net/def...
strungup 12/5/2012 | 3:15:17 PM
re: Raza's Firm Slims Focus Juniper is using Raza for their service module. Not sure if it's shipped yet.
Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 3:57:09 AM
re: Raza's Firm Slims Focus Anyone gotten a look inside the guts of RMI chips?

If the XLR is as high-performing as they claim, one wonders if there's a chance for the company to get bought out.
laserbrain2 12/5/2012 | 3:57:07 AM
re: Raza's Firm Slims Focus The XLR may have a problem of lack of focus. It's basically a handful of multithreaded MIPS CPUs with some networking acceleration thrown in. Because it's a general chip, they had to opt for general purpose I/O. When you build it into an appliance or blade you find that the bottleneck just shifts from CPU cycles to memory or bus limitations. Does it really help Cisco get that much more performance? (and, really, Cisco is the market.)
High performance appliance vendors either have their own silicon to solve both problems or, more commonly, go the cheap route with a linux box. (The big XLR is like $1000 per chip, isn't it? plus RAM, lots of big power supplies, not to mention the dearth of developers that can write good multi-thread code.)

Cavium has the same problem with the Octeon, though they have an installed base to upsell from the Nitrox (which, to their credit, absolutely stole the market). Edge goes to Cavium. Doesn't matter if the XLR has a few more threads.
optimight2002 12/5/2012 | 3:54:59 AM
re: Raza's Firm Slims Focus
I cannot believe this con-man has raised more capital. At least the Silicon Valley VCs now understand who he is. However, His Highness Bruce Dunlevie from Benchmark (tier-1 firm) still is a believer. It's not surprising - if anyone has brown-nosing skills, it's Atiq Raza. Bruce - how many times have you visited RMI and talked to their executives besides the one pawn Atiq puts in front of you? The real good people from that organization are gainfully employed now while Atiq plays house-house with people who do not have anywhere to go.

Atiq - you are a 3rd grade con-man who has not achieved much in life except selling a bill of goods. Good job selling Nexgen to AMD and then AMD having to re-do the entire project. Good job selling Yuni to AMCC and AMCC realizing how much revenue frrom that acquisition?

It's high time, we start seperating the value creators from the sales guys. Not this used car, Atiq. I'll go to another lot.

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