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Big Blue drops its search-engine ambitions, selling its only two chip designs to IDT

September 2, 2003

2 Min Read
IBM Sells Off Search Engines

IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) has sold the technology of its nascent search engine chips business, as part of the company's plan to scale back its original network processor ambitions.

Integrated Device Technology Inc. (IDT) (Nasdaq: IDTI) announced today that it had acquired the two chip designs, for a 4.5-Mbit and an 18-Mbit search engine (see IDT Buys IBM's NSEs). The sale price was not disclosed and was probably insignificant anyway, as the deal involved only the product designs and no employees.

The two chips are sampling but never shipped for revenue, says Scott Sarnikowski, vice president of IDT's IP coprocessor division.

Search engines combine a chip called a content addressable memory (CAM) with logic. Their job is to grab information from huge routing tables before forwarding packets to a network processor (see Search Engines Face Software Challenge).

An IBM spokesman says search engines didn't fit the company's new microelectronics strategy, which focuses on foundry work, custom ASICs, and devices based on the PowerPC microprocessor. IBM would have been late to market anyway, having completed only the two search engine chips sold to IDT.

IBM has been scaling back its plans for network processors and similar chips, albeit not as drastically as PMC-Sierra Inc. (Nasdaq: PMCS) or Vitesse Semiconductor Corp. (Nasdaq: VTSS) (see PMC-Sierra Pulls Packet Silicon and Vitesse Drops Some Packets). IBM's future network processors will be based not on the proprietary PowerNP architecture, but on the more commonly used PowerPC chip. And its PowerPRS switch fabrics, originally touted for terabit routers, are being targeted at enterprise boxes.

The IBM deal doesn't expand IDT's product portfolio much, as IDT already sells 4.5-Mbit and 18-Mbit search engines (see IDT Ships IP Co-Processor). What IDT does gain is a bit of new technology: "There are some additional power efficiencies in the CAM cell," Sarnikowski says, "and some size and density advantages as well."

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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