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Freescale to acquire Seaway Networks

Posted: 24 Aug 2005 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:communications chip? seaway networks? sw-5000 content processor?

In a move to expand its communications chip business, Freescale Semiconductor Inc. has acquired the assets of Seaway Networks Inc. for an undisclosed price.

Privately-held Seaway Networks (Ottawa) is a fabless semiconductor supplier of content-processing technology and products for the data networking industry. Earlier this year, startup Seaway rolled out a new hardware matching capability for its SW-5000 content processor.

"This acquisition aligns Seaway's content-processing expertise, technology and products with Freescale's communications processor roadmap and PowerQUICC processor portfolio," David Perkins, senior vice president of Freescale and general manager of Freescale's Networking and Computing Systems Group, said in a statement.

"Seaway's strong technical team and intellectual-property assets complement and add value to our dataplane strategy, enabling us to enhance our technology leadership and momentum in the networking equipment market," he said.

About 40 Seaway employees are joining Freescale (Austin, Texas) through this acquisition. The team, representing the majority of the Seaway organization, will staff Freescale's new Ottawa Technology Center.

Seaway had raised $23 million in venture funding since it was founded in early 2001 by ex-Nortel Networks engineers. Lynelle McKay, vice president and general manager of the Freescale NCSD, said acquiring assets rather than a corporate entity "made the deal both more complex, but made its execution and integration simpler."

She stressed that the financial structure of the acquisition was not an indication that Seaway assets were distressed, since the Canadian company had found several customers for its NCA-2000 2Gb content-processing card and single-chip content processor.

Last spring, Seaway developers demonstrated a special FPGA for pattern-matching the company is selling in co-processing environments, combining the SW-5000 with the FPGA and PowerPC cores in future generations. McKay said this development path led to the decision to acquire Seaway.

"We had worked with the company for two years in an alliance for higher-layer applications," she said. "But this spring, Seaway had come to the Freescale semicustom business for implementing their next-generation product. As we looked at their roadmap and ours, we moved to a letter of intent very quickly."

Seaway's content processing has been used in deep-packet inspection applications for security and load-balancing, since it allows full probes of packet content beyond the examination of the IP header. In the future, this could be used for accelerating such Layer 7 application areas as XML (eXtended Markup Language) processing.

Freescale is examining the potential of integrating current Seaway designs with the existing PowerQuicc III, and future Seaway technologies with the PowerPC e700 core. The latter will be used as the central core of further generations of the PowerQuicc.

Bob Gohn, director of strategy and business development within Freescale's NCSD, said any number of multicore or loosely-coupled multiple-PowerPC designs might be possible that would use Seaway content inspection and pattern matching along with Freescale network processing, "but the end applications and the price points may determine what comes to market."

In theory, Freescale's new center will be a general intellectual-property clearinghouse for Layer 4 through 7 packet content analysis. That expertise is used by Freescale corporate centers, McKay said, "but in practice, most of the interest will probably come from NCSD groups."

- Mark LaPedus, Loring Wirbel

EE Times

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