SAN DIEGO ( ChipWire) -- Adding to its arsenal of switch components, chip vendor Applied Micro Circuits Corp. here has announced plans to purchase Yuni Networks Inc., also in San Diego, a terabit switch-fabric vendor. But AMCC has intentionally shied away from purchasing a network processor vendor, a decision the company says won't hurt its long-term plans.
AMCC made the Yuni purchase on Wednesday, along with its acquisition of design houses pBaud Logic Inc., of Kanata, Ontario, and Chameleon Technologies Inc., of Irvine, Calif. Terms of the latter two deals were not disclosed; for Yuni, AMCC will offer up to 2.25 million shares of stock in a $240 million deal that's expected to close in May.
Off-the-shelf switch fabrics have yet to catch on with networking OEMs, but AMCC found the Yuni technology flexible enough to aim at future markets, said Brent Little, AMCC's vice president of marketing.
"To date, these switch fabric solutions have been developed in silicon by the companies that produce the actual switches," Little said. "This is an area of IP intellectual property where many ofthe customers are just starting to entertain the idea of outsourcing."
AMCC expects that merchant switch fabrics will become common once standardization sets in, a pattern that's been established with Layer 1 and 2 components such as mappers and framers. Such
a transition will take 18 to 24 months, Little estimated.
Yuni is therefore a future play, aimed at extending AMCC's reach in the overall switching market. Yuni's switch fabric works with ATM and Internet Protocols and also has features tailored toward
TDM-based circuit-switched traffic, the kind of multi-protocol capability that AMCC found ideal, Little said. In addition, although Yuni brags about its terabit switching capacity, its switch fabric is also usable in the 80- to 120-gigabits-per-second range, the lower end of AMCC's market.
Other switch-fabric providers, such as Power X Ltd. and Abrizio, were considered, but none offered both protocol independence and a "cost-effective" product for the low end, Little said.
While Yuni made a good match with AMCC's plans, no such partner could be found among the network processor vendors, Little said. The network processors introduced during the past year are all programmable or configurable, but the offerings available weren't "core-centric" enough to easily interact with AMCC's other products. "We need products that bolt on very cleanly to the customer base," he said.
As a result, AMCC couldn't find a network processor firm it was comfortable acquiring. AMCC had considered but passed on Sitera Inc. of Longmont, Colo., which is being acquired by Vitesse Semiconductor Corp. (see today's story).
Carrying a lower valuation -- and therefore less buying power -- than competitor PMC-Sierra Inc., AMCC has to be picky about acquisitions, Little said.
That doesn't put AMCC out of the network processor game entirely. "We do have internal activity on the network processor side and there are companies out there that, whether they've been snatched
up or stand alone, we continue to work with," Little said.
Either way, AMCC plans to offer some form of network processor, which could be important as fellow chip vendors such as Vitesse are amassing nearly every component of the switch into their product
lines. As with switch fabrics, there's no urgency to get a part out immediately. Little said that OEMs are willing to entertain the idea of off-the-shelf network processors, but aren't seriously demanding
Separately, AMCC purchased design houses pBaud and Chameleon, both specialists in forward error correction (see today's story). AMCC had been working with both companies and decided to grab their expertise as ammunition for future FEC products. Already widely used in wireless and satellite communications, FEC is expected by many to become a big part of fiber-optic communications as well.