FISHKILL, N.Y. -- IBM Corp.'s Microelectronics Division here today said it has created a communications R&D center to expand its IC offerings for the Internet, electronic business and integrated voice/data services, and the company announced a partnership with startup C-Port Corp. to support a new class of communications processors.
The moves are part of a new initiative launched by IBM Microelectronics to become the chip industry's leading communications technology supplier--a goal that is being embraced by a growing number of major semiconductor suppliers worldwide. Intel Corp. this week plans to map out its plans for a range of communication ICs following recent acquisitions to become the communications semiconductor leader (see today's story).
Along with the new R&D center and partnership with C-Port, the IBM initiative includes a new family of programmable communications processor for networking systems products that can be tailored with software instead of hardware upgrades and efforts to work with third-party companies to develop new applications for communications processors.
"Demands on networks are exploding, but for network providers, offering higher speeds or new services often means replacing their equipment," said Christine King, vice president of wired communications for IBM Microelectronics. "This is because much of the function of these boxes is provided by highly-customized chips. By offering a more standardized set of chips with the flexibility to alter their function through software, we're making it possible for network providers to upgrade their equipment faster and easier."
IBM and two-year-old C-Port of Andover, Mass., plan several joint activities to enable makers of routers and switches to enhance their systems with new communications processors and software. The two companies said they plan to develop standard application programming interfaces (APIs) to allow equipment manufacturers to use software for new functions in networking products.
C-Port--one of several U.S. chip startup receiving more than $15 million in venture capital in the first half of 1999 (see Aug. 27 story)--has selected IBM as a foundry to manufacturer its C-5 digital communications processor. The two companies said they plan to work together to enhance future generations of the DCP chip.
"We firmly believe that the flexibility of communications processors is changing the networking industry, but we know that no one company can bring about that change alone," said Larry Walker, president and CEO of C-Port.
The companies said they will work together to provide interoperability between IBM's 28.8 Gbps packet routing switch fabric technology and C-Port's C-5 DCP.
To expand network its communications technologies, IBM said it was forming a new Communications Research and Development Center, which will comprised of scientists and engineers from IBM R&D centers in Zurich, Haifa, Yorktown, N.Y. and Raleigh, N.C. The new R&D organization will concentrate on developing future network communications products, such as ultra-scaleable switching systems and advanced switch and router products, according to IBM.
IBM also unveiled a network processor for 4-gigabit networks and a lower-end processor for networked resources for midrange edge switching. Also on tap is a 28.4-Gbit/second packet-routing switch, the latest generation of the Prisma physical-layer switching fabric family that could link to network processors from multiple vendors.