Comms chips

Network Processors: Easy Come, Easy Go

As fast as network processor developments get put on hold, other ones take their place, judging by the program for the Network Processors West conference, to be held in San Jose, Calif., next October.

The program lists no fewer than eight new startups:

  • Astute Networks Inc. "will provide the first look at its transport protocol processor, which can be used for TCP termination as well as upper-layer protocol processing," according to the conference blurb.

  • Seaway Networks Inc. will describe how its "Streamwise" technology for content processing works. A content processor can look deep into packets at Layers 4 through 7 for applications such as Web servers and firewalls. Seaway was founded by a bunch of former Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) engineers (see Nortel Folk Float to Seaway).

  • Propulsion Networks (no Website) will be unveiling its first product, which is expected to be a supercharged data-path processor suitable for OC768 (40 Gbit/s) speeds. According to information on an investor's Website, the startup has developed techniques to address the memory bandwidth issues -- how to get information in and out of memory quickly and efficiently. Investors include Athena Technology Ventures and Woodside Fund.

  • Israeli startup HyWire will introduce its first product, a search engine that enables searches at lower power than CAM-based (content addressable memory) search engines. Most network processor solutions require separate search engine chips from an outside vendor.

  • A mystery startup will also make its debut. Who could it be? Stealth-mode startup Dune Networks is a possible candidate. Another startup that has yet to reveal anything about its product plans is Teradiant Networks Inc. (see Teradiant Turns Up).

  • Two switch fabric startups -- Tau Networks Inc. and Zagros Networks Inc. -- will also unveil their first products. Packet-based switch fabrics provide policing and shaping of traffic flows and are an essential part of a complete router solution.

These new players are filling the shoes of a bunch of network processor startups that have quietly disappeared in recent months. These include:

  • Entridia, whose Website now boasts a sign saying “For all Entridia’s product lines, sales, licensing and other inquiries, please contact Stratigos Networks, LLC.” (See Entridia Offers 'Rhapsody'.)

  • Clearwater Networks, which has disappeared without a trace. (See Clearwater Unveils Services Processor.)

  • Terago Communications, which doesn’t appear to have responded to resuscitation efforts, judging by the nonexistent pulse of its Website. (See Terago Soldiers On.)

At least two heavyweight vendors -- PMC-Sierra Inc. (Nasdaq: PMCS) and Vitesse Semiconductor Corp. (Nasdaq: VTSS) -- have also canceled future network processor products (see PMC-Sierra Pulls Packet Silicon and Vitesse Drops Some Packets).

The bottom line is that there are still plenty of players in the network processor market. Investment probably tops $500 million -- a significant sum, considering the fact that the market itself is thought to be worth about $1 billion in total, according to Linley Gwennap, principal analyst of the Linley Group, a consultancy specializing in network processor technology.

So how many network processor vendors are there? A new report on network processors -- written by Simon Stanley, president of Earlswood Marketing Ltd., a U.K. consultancy -- published yesterday on Light Reading lists 17 established vendors and advanced startups (see Network Processors).

— Pauline Rigby, Senior Editor, Light Reading
http://www.lightreading.com Want to know more? The big cheeses of the optical networking industry will be discussing this very topic at Opticon 2002, Light Reading’s annual conference, being held in San Jose, California, August 19-22. Check it out at Opticon 2002.

Register now and save $500 off the registration fee. Just use the VIP Code C2PT1LHT on your registration form, and deduct $500 from the published conference fee. It's that simple!

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