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Optical/IP

Cisco Buys Growth, Literally

There could be more than meets the eye in today's announcement by Cisco Systems, Inc. . http://www.cisco.com of its agreement to buy Growth Networks, Inc http://www.growthnetworks.com , a startup developing a silicon for use in future routers and switches.

The deal, worth about $355 million in Cisco shares, could prove to be crucial to Cisco's efforts to catch up in the race to develop genuine terabit switches and routers, on two counts.

First, Growth Networks claims to have developed a new type of switching fabric that will scale to Terabit/s speeds - an order of magnitude more than the shared memory and crossbar switches used in existing equipment, according to Cisco.

Second, a big shake-out among developers of switching silicon is on the cards this year - one that could play into the hands of Growth Networks if its claims of a big breakthrough prove justified, and one that could help all vendors develop equipment faster.

The big shake-out could result from the finalization of an industry standard by the CSIX Consortium http://www.csix.org, a group of 25 semiconductor vendors that's developing a "Common Switch Interface" (CSIX) between the switching fabric and network processors used in networking equipment.

The standard promises to speed up the development of new equipment by enabling vendors to use off-the-shelf CSIX components rather than specially designed ones. It also promises to heat up the competition between component vendors, because OEM manufacturers will be able to swap from one supplier to another much more easily.

And the CSIX standard has been developed with the future in mind; it supports up to 4096 ports, each supporting communication speeds of up to OC-192 (10 Gbit/s).

Growth is one of the founding member of the CSIX Consortium. It plans to implement the CSIX spec in a "1 Terabit/s non blocking switch" that offers both circuit and packet switching and incorporates quality of service functions such as weighted fair queuing. The chips can be combined to offer capacities of "10s of Terabits", according to Growth. Early samples of the chip will be available next quarter, and volume shipments will start in the fourth quarter of this year, according to the company.

by Peter Heywood, international editor, Light Reading http://www.lightreading.com
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