IBM, Intel square off on new turf: comm processors

IBM and Intel Corp., dueling new contenders in the communications processor arena, today added some weapons to their growing arsenals.

IBM and Intel Corp., dueling new contenders in the communications processor arena, today added some weapons to their growing arsenals.

This morning Intel announced plans to acquire the Telecom Components Products division of Stanford Telecommunications Inc.

For its part, IBM unveiled the new PowerPC 440 embedded processor for networking equipment suppliers that build routers and switches. The chip is about three times faster than IBM's current PowerPC 405 communications processor, officials said.

"We view ourselves as a soup-to-nuts supplier of technology," said Chuck Sannipoli, manager of systems enablement at IBM in Research Triangle Park, N.C. "This adds key technology at the high end of the core processor range for executing protocol management functions in hubs, switches and routers."

As networking vendors adopt the new processor, network managers can expect to see better price/performance capabilities within the next couple of years, Sannipoli said.

The current PowerPC 405 will continue to be used for wide area network applications where slower data rates, such as T-1's 1.544M bps, are used.

The new PowerPC 440 will be available for sampling by June of next year, with volume shipments due by year's end.

In conjunction with the faster processor, IBM also announced the 128-bit CoreConnect bus, which doubles the speed of the existing bus, used to move information to the processor.

Intel adds meat to IXA

In its quest to become the biggest supplier of communications processor chips, Intel made its fourth acquisition this year, gaining silicon for building broadband wireless and cable network hardware.

Stanford Telecommunications' Telecom Components Products division, based in Sunnyvale, Calif., markets chips for building head-end equipment for cable and broadband wireless networks as well as cable modems and set-top boxes.

Intel will use the chips to fill out portions of its IXA (Internet Exchange Architecture) blueprint for executing WAN functions at the physical, formatting and switching layers. The IXA, introduced earlier this month, outlines Intel's vision for building networking equipment based on programmable network processors.

Intel expects to complete the all-cash transaction in the next several weeks. The Santa Clara, Calif., company would not disclose how much it will pay for the division, which has 30 employees. The division accounted for approximately 10 percent of Stanford's overall revenues of $165 million last year.

Stanford recently announced plans to merge with Newbridge Networks Corp., a deal that brings Stanford's Wireless Broadband Products and Satellite Personal Communications groups to the Kanata, Canada, telecommunications equipment firm.