What's Motorola Doing With NetPlane?
Here's the deal: NetPlane makes software that simplifies the morass of software contained in routers, crossconnects, and switches used in carrier and enterprise networks (see NetPlane Opens Up IP Routing and NetPlane Aims at Simpler QoS). Motorola Computer Group (MCG) makes network processors, chassis, and cards for use by network equipment vendors. The two have worked together on many projects to combine software and hardware in development kits for vendors, including Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT), which is a longstanding MCG/NetPlane customer.
MCG now hopes to use NetPlane's technology to delve deeper into what it thinks is a growing market for OEM'd software/hardware combinations, which can streamline the manufacturing process.
The two companies share other connections as well. Two NetPlane executives, VP and general manager Deepak Shahane and VP of customer engineering Kevin Smith, are former Motorola employees. According to John Fryer, former VP of marketing at NetPlane, the entire management team, including Shahane, is joining MCG. These executives will report to brand-new general manager Wendy Vittori, whose past jobs have included managing the storage components division of Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC).
Fryer says all 62 of NetPlane's current employees also are joining the new parent company.
MCG has made it clear that it hopes to expand NetPlane's expertise beyond telecom applications. In its press release, MCG states that NetPlane software could be used with CompactPCI, Processor PMC, or VMEbus boards for products serving the "industrial automation and defense industries." There's also talk of extending NetPlane expertise to the wireless divisions at MCG's parent, Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT).
NetPlane's Fryer says NetPlane was already working on special projects for MCG. For instance, software to support IS-IS routing that had been planned for release earlier this year was developed and released, but kept unannounced until after the acquisition.
NetPlane will also join its wares to other assets that MCG has been collecting, Fryer says, including voice-over-IP software acquired by MCG with its July 2001 acquisition of Blue Wave Systems Inc., a company that made digital signal processors for media gateways.
For NetPlane, MCG looks like a first-class lifeboat. Back in the third quarter of 2002, NetPlane's parent company, Conexant Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CNXT), announced it was looking to jettison NetPlane, which it purchased in October 2000 for an undisclosed sum. NetPlane cut 30 percent of its staff in July 2002, and it was clearly examining its options.
Of course, the challenge now will be effectively integrating it all – and under a brand-new MCG manager, no less.
NetPlane, formerly known as Harris & Jeffries, was founded in 1990 and created protocol software for OEMs that included X.25, ATM, and routing software. In 2000, the company was bought by Conexant, which made it part of Mindspeed Technologies, the company's division devoted to WAN transport and multiservice access gear for Internet use.
— Mary Jander, Senior Editor, Light Reading