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Startup shows off integrated protocol processor

Posted: 17 Dec 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:processor integrated protocol? Siverge Networks SV3640?

Siverge Networks debuts this week a single chip that handles a wide range of protocols for an equally broad target market of wired, optical and wireless telecom systems. The chip comes at a time when the industry is giving conflicting signs about the extent the global recession will impact the telecom market.

The Griffin SV3640 can process packet, cell and time-division multiplexing (TDM) protocols at the physical and media-access layers at data rates up to 10Gbit/s. Competing chips tend to require multiple chips to handle a smaller subset of protocols at the transport level.

Israel's Siverge aims to find design wins in multi-service switches and routers as well as other telecom systems used on wired and wireless nets. It is sampling its chips to telecom OEMs in China, Europe and Japan.

"There is a whole world of protocols being implemented in data services, and system vendors typically have to design and manage different solutions for each one," said Yuval Berger, chief executive of Siverge. "This is the main pain point of telecom system developers today," he added.

"They have a device that's more universal and more highly integrated" than established competitors such as Applied Micro Circuits Corp. which use separate framer, mapper and termination devices, said Bob Wheeler, senior analyst with The Linley Group .

"The problem is they are targeting, in part, the traditional TDM space where I would not expect people to invest in a lot of new designs," Wheeler added, noting most new chips are aimed at carrier Ethernet or other packet-centric systems.

Berger said the Siverge strategy is a practical one. "We are not envisioning a futuristic solution, rather an optimal one for the current migration of networks," he said.

Conflicting messages
The startup debuts at a time when the market is sending conflicting messages about the impact of the global recession on telecom. In a mid-December announcement of plans to lay off 1,000 executives, the newly installed chief executive of Alcatel-Lucent publicly stated he expects the telecom market to decline eight to 12 percent in 2009.

Earlier this month, AT&T said it would slash 12,000 jobs, about four percent of the company's total workforce, and will spend less on capital gear in 2009 than it did this year. AT&T said it would provide specific numbers in January.

Nevertheless, two telecom market watchers remain somewhat bullish.

Insight Research Corp. predicted telecom revenues will grow 10.3 percent on a compound basis from $1.7 trillion in 2008 to $2.7 trillion in 2013 with most growth in wireless. "Over the long haul, we expect the telecommunications industry to continue growing," said Insight president Robert Rosenberg.

"As it looks today, the effect of the general economic downturn likely will be minimal on the optical network hardware market, because consumers and businesses continue to demand more bandwidth," said Michael Howard, principal analyst with Infonetics Research, speaking in a research note.

Howard forecasts the overall optical network hardware market will grow to $16.4 billion in 2011.

"For now we are not seeing projects being canceled," said Berger of Siverge.

"I believe the telecom market will not be significantly impacted by this [recession]," he added. "The key drive today is broadband and video apps for consumers, and I don't think this will change significantly."

Siverge was founded in 2005 with a $12 million investment. Berger said the company is about to close a second round for $15 million that includes its existing investors.

Slew of features
The Siverge Griffin chip processes framing and mapping for Sonet, T1, T3 and other standard traffic types. It handles controller functions for ATM and a variety of other services. And it can process Ethernet packets over optical nets.

The chip supports a total of eight 2.5Gbit/s ports and dissipates 15W maximum. The company's secret sauce is an internal proprietary matrix of up to 2,000 channels, each of which can handle any supported protocol.

The matrix "is much more than a state machine," said Berger. It "includes a proprietary structure of buffers that can be context switched in a single clock cycle," handling tens of thousands of bits per 300MHz clock cycle. The chip also sports a hardware accelerator for each supported protocol.

The chip has a control mechanism to configure the buffers and context switching in the matrix so that any channel can link to any protocol accelerator.

"We provide high level software that makes the complexity of the chip transparent, using only protocol and channel numbers," said Berger. "Configuring the device looks like configuring the network," he added.

Siverge offers Griffin in three speed grades. It also offers three chips that offer subsets of the Griffin features.

The Griffin-E supports Ethernet packets over any transport layer. The Griffin-T handles a variety of TDM protocols, and the Griffin-D is a layer 2 protocol termination device.

All four products have taped out and are available in sample quantities with production in 1H 09. Prices range from $200 up to $1,200 for the top-end flagship chip in 10,000-unit quantities.

"The $1,200 device replaces silicon that could be five to time times more expensive," Berger claimed. "In this market devices tend to be large and expensive so in general you see three digits in a price."

- Rick Merritt
EE Times

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