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Comms chips

Ethernet Pays Off for Xelerated

The decision to target carrier Ethernet is paying off for Xelerated Inc., as the chip company has landed a contract with systems vendor Atrica Inc.

Atrica is designing a new platform around the X11, Xelerated's 20-Gbit/s network processor optimized for Ethernet, the companies announced today (see Atrica Picks Xelerated).

It's the first announced win for the X11 and a sign of progress for Xelerated's new direction. Its original chip, the X10, targeted 40-Gbit/s throughput and the handling of multiple protocols including Sonet, two requirements that seemed reasonable back in 1999.

Xelerated has managed to stay on its feet after the telecom implosion, but it's had to shift some plans. The X10 is still around, but much of Xelerated's focus is on the Ethernet-minded X11. The direction contributed to Xelerated receiving $17 million in funding earlier this year (see Net Processors Sport New Look and Net Processors Bloom at 10-Gig).

The programmability of network processors could make them attractive as carrier-class Ethernet technology develops. "All of these standards are not set yet, so we see a big interest in having programmability for carrier Ethernet systems," says Thomas Eklund, Xelerated's vice president of business development.

The X11 is set to begin sampling this month, with volume production slated for January 2006, later than expected considering the Ethernet strategy was announced in October 2004. "We have made some changes for a specific customer, so we slipped the schedule deliberately," Eklund says. He adds that the customer in question isn't Atrica but is a Tier 1 vendor, a sign that the X11 won't be a one-hit wonder.

Xelerated has landed a well known Ethernet name in Atrica. dominates the carrier Ethernet realm, but Atrica has been a figurehead for carrier Ethernet, with the company's marketing VP, Nan Chen, heading the Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF). (See Atrica and LR Reveals Leading Lights Winners.) Carrier Ethernet has caught on to the point where it might replace the multiservice provisioning platform (MSPP) in some carriers's plans, according to Heavy Reading analyst Stan Hubbard (see Ethernet Stalks the MSPP).

Carrier Ethernet was all the rage at last month's Supercomm, and interest in the technology might be leading Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR) to consider an acquisition of Atrica (see Ethernet Goes Wide at Supercomm and Juniper Shopping for Atrica?). In North America, a Heavy Reading survey of 109 Ethernet carriers showed 45 percent offering Ethernet private line, virtual private line, or virtual private LAN services.

"Many service providers and equipment vendors are accelerating their efforts to ensure that Ethernet services match or exceed the performance characteristics of legacy frame relay, ATM, and Sonet-based private line services," Hubbard writes in the report, "Ethernet Services Carrier Scorecard: North America."

Atrica officials were not immediately available for comment.

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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