MILPITAS, Calif. Abhi Talwalkar has been a busy guy.
In his first 24 months as a chief executive, he has been part of five acquisitions, two divestitures, a $3.5 billion merger and a radical restructuring in the manufacturing strategy of LSI Corp., one of the icons of Silicon Valley. But his work is far from over.
For a company now focused exclusively on storage and networking markets, it has a glaring lack of standard Ethernet products.
Plenty of startups are prime acquisition targets to fill the need including 10Gbit Ethernet specialists such as Aquantia, Chelsio, Solarflare, ServerEngines and many others. (LSI already has an investment in Chelsio.) Alternatively, the growth could come organically because LSI has many of the key gigabit and 10G Ethernet capabilities in house in its still active ASIC group.
Just what will happen and when is unclear. But Talwalkar is clearly exploring his options, even if he isn't willing to provide much detail on his thinking at this stage.
Networking silicon "is an area of development and we are working on making it a bigger part of our business," said Talwalkar in an interview at his Milpitas, Calif. headquarters. Whether he wants a portfolio of standard Ethernet products to go up against the Broadcoms and Marvells of the world is still unclear.
"It's not something we have decided on," he said. "We're looking at that market overall in terms of data center fabrics. You can't be participating in that market and not see what's going on in fabric convergence," he added, referring to the move to put more traffic over fewer networks.
Talwalkar is quick to point out that LSI currently has multiple ASICs in the works with customers building Fibre Channel over Ethernet products, one of the key directions in networking convergence for companies such as Cisco Systems and IBM Corp. The company is also working on Gigabit and 10G Ethernet ASICs.
"It's a question of whether we want to participate in [Ethernet] in a broader way," said Talwalkar. "Right now our plan is to participate through our custom approach."
Market timing is part of the equation. "There have been hundreds of millions invested in the [10G] curve that has been in front of us for the past 7-8 years, but it is much more real now than it ever has in terms of deployments of switches and intelligent server cards in the next 12-24 months," he said.
Networking represents just 20 percent of LSI's business today, the rest coming from its storage division. Having a strong 10G Ethernet offering could bolster both groups strategically, said Linley Gwennap, principal of market watcher The Linley Group (Mountain View, Calif.). That's because the storage networking sector is one of the fastest growing segments in business computing today.
Much of today's LSI is the result of the $3.5 billion merger with Agere Systems, the former semiconductor unit of AT&T. Agere added read channel chips to LSI's position in hard disk, RAID and storage interface components. It also brought a wealth of networking chips both in datacom products for business computing as well as telecom parts for service providers.