Galazar Puts SANs in the Frame

In a testament to the growing importance of SANs in metro services, semiconductor vendor Galazar Networks Inc. has announced a framer chip that maps SAN protocols to Sonet/SDH networks (see Galazar Intros SAN over Sonet Mapper).

Framer chips enable devices to run a range of protocols that weren't originally developed for Sonet/SDH, via techniques such as Generic Framing Procedure (GFP) and Virtual Concatenation (VCAT). Galazar, founded in 2001, has been active in the Ethernet framing market and now sees what execs call a solid opportunity in SANs (see Galazar Networks Opens With $11.2M and Making Sonet Storage-Friendly).

"SAN is a high-value service, and carriers want to capitalize on Sonet architectures," say Matthew Coakeley, director of applications at Galazar. "The indications we have are that demand is modest but very firm."

Galazar's new chip, the MDX251, isn't yet shipping or even sampling. But execs say prototypes are set for alpha testing next quarter. Today's announcement reflects the vendor's eagerness to get on a bandwagon that's already holding at least two of Galazar's major competitors -- Applied Micro Circuits Corp. (AMCC) (Nasdaq: AMCC) and Cypress Semiconductor Corp. (NYSE: CY).

Galazar, which has garnered more than $20 million in venture funding to date and boasted the recent addition of former JDS Uniphase Corp. (Nasdaq: JDSU; Toronto: JDU) CEO Jozef Straus to its board, claims it's cheaper than some competitive solutions (see Galazar Gets Big Names on Board). Its new chip will be priced at about $200 and down per increment of 5,000, execs say. The vendor also boasts that its mapper supports sub-rate DS3/DS1 links, in addition to broader Sonet/SDH connections.

Galazar's SAN framer requires its multiservice mapper, the MSF250, introduced last year, and its data services framer, the DSF250 (see Galazar Unveils Multiservice Framer). But execs don't see a disadvantage to OEMs in having to use more than one chip to obtain the SAN support, even though single-chip solutions are perceived as cheaper. "Two devices allow flexibility," says Coakeley. "Would some customers eventually like one chip? Yes. But Sonet is a premium service, so the pressure is not as great as it would be for pizza-box type equipment."

Galazar's closest competitor is Cypress, which offers its own two-chip solution, including a Sonet/SDH framer and accompaying SAN protocol FPGA, which also supports sub-rate links, for about $370 per 5,000. Cypress product marketing manager R.K. Parthasarathy says customers are using the SAN product in live deployments. He also says having more than one chip in the solution is the only way to go, since technology and protocols are changing so fast and customers need to constantly add variability to basic Sonet/SDH framing. Further, he says, two chips consume less power than one.

The market will determine how Galazar and Cypress play out against each other. But Galazar's announcement may also reflect its competitive situation with TranSwitch Corp. (Nasdaq: TXCC), another semiconductor vendor, which sued Galazar last year for patent infringement then recently withdrew that suit and launched a motion claiming Galazar falsely advertised its wares (see TranSwitch Sues Galazar).

Galazar's CEO, Richard Deboer, says Galazar hasn't changed its product any, and he denies Transwitch's original claim of patent infringement, as well as its latest false advertising claim. Further, Galazar is countersuing Transwitch for its trouble. "We're not viewing this as a defendant anymore," Deboer says.

Transwitch didn't return calls asking for information about its suit against Galazar or its framer chips.

Like other vendors, Galazar deploys so-called transparent GFP to support SAN protocols in Sonet/SDH. Transparent GFP is required to map protocols that don't have a specified frame format that can be used to replace the one typically used in Sonet/SDH networks. In contrast, Ethernet can be mapped to Sonet/SDH by using frame-mapped GFP in place of the high-level data link control (HDLC) protocol in Sonet/SDH.

Galazar's introduction of SAN mappers is no surprise. The market for framers has grown in recent years, as vendors such as Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA), Fujitsu Ltd. (OTC: FJTSY; Tokyo: 6702), Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU), Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT), and Siemens AG (NYSE: SI; Frankfurt: SIE) seek to help service providers add Ethernet and, increasingly, storage services to their metro Sonet/SDH offerings.

— Mary Jander, Site Editor, Byte and Switch

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