Motorola Stuck on C-Port
It's been two years since Motorola announced the Q-5 traffic manager and the C-10 network processor, both of which were supposed to sample by now. Neither product has been canceled, but they've been substantially delayed as Motorola adapted its plans to the slower market, writes Bob Gohn, Motorola marketing director, in an email.
That leaves Motorola with just the C-5e and C-3e, the latest revisions of C-Port's original C-5 network processor. However, C-Port is by no means out of the game: The Linley Group has counted about 100 design wins for the C-5, including some big names (see Motorola Wins Three Customers).
"The good news is that Motorola has been investing at a moderate level in this market, so they're likely to hang in there," says Linley Group analyst Bob Wheeler. "The bad news is that they've basically got one product."
And the design, while few years old, is still technically solid. "With IBM Corp.'s departure from the market, the C-5 becomes the leading OC48 [network processor] from a design perspective," Wheeler says.
Motorola had planned -- and still plans -- to augment the C-5 with the Q-5, an adjunct traffic manager chip. The Q-5's job would be to prioritize packets before sending them to a switch fabric, providing quality of service for up to 256,000 traffic flows.
"They got fairly far along with the design and figured out they couldn't actually build the thing," Wheeler says. Motorola retrenched early this year, simplifying the Q-5 and delaying its release.
Motorola's Gohn writes that the delay was triggered by "a desire to tune the part to meet some specific customer needs, as well as a desire to 'slim down' the part to better match the changing general market needs."
The resulting chip will be cost about $235, versus $575 for the original Q-5, according to Gohn. The price change has prompted Motorola to drop plans for a Q-3 chip, which would have been a cheaper version of the original Q-5.
This summer, Motorola sampled the slimmer Q-5 to customers in field-programmable gate array (FPGA) form. That's a common first step for chipmakers; an FPGA is a "blank slate" chip that can be programmed to mimic another chip's design -- the tradeoff being that the FPGA is bigger and sometimes slower than the real thing.
Linley's Wheeler says the actual Q-5 chip isn't expected to appear until December, "basically 18 months after the original schedule." That has given the competition some time to pull ahead. For example, according to Wheeler, Agere Systems Inc. (NYSE: AGR.A) is shipping a network processor with an integrated traffic manager, and Applied Micro Circuits Corp. (AMCC) (Nasdaq: AMCC) is planning a similar product for 2004 release (see Agere Ships Single-Chip NPU and AMCC Intros Network Processors).
The C-10, meanwhile, has been put off until late 2004, leaving Motorola without a next-generation processor for now. "This is by design, given the current market conditions and real demand for 10G-oriented NPUs," Gohn writes.
— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading