Cisco to buy Ethernet chipmaker Greenfield

Cisco to buy Ethernet chipmaker Greenfield

Cisco agreed to buy Greenfield Networks for its metro Ethernet silicon

Cisco Systems will add switch-silicon vendor, Greenfield Networks, to its arsenal for metro Ethernet, a technology many service providers are now rolling out for business customers.

Privately held Greenfield, founded in 2000, makes processors that can handle advanced functions in Ethernet switches and are positioned for carrier Ethernet networks. It is headed by former head of Cisco's wireless networking unit, Bill Rossi, and several other ex-Cisco executives. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Metro Ethernet extends the familiar LAN technology out to a regionwide scale. Service providers are using it to offer high-speed business services with flexible bandwidth and an interface that enterprise network staffs already understand. Ethernet also generally costs less than traditional carrier network technologies, proponents say.

Cisco is already a major player in metro Ethernet. Greenfield's technology is complementary and will be integrated with Cisco's own, helping the company bring out new carrier-class features more quickly, Cisco said. Greenfield's products support features such as packet prioritsation, guaranteed bandwidth, MPLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching) and IPV6 (Internet Protocol, Version 6).

Greenfield's chips are configurable, one of several factors that would help Cisco introduce new features on switches in the future, a director on Cisco's corporate business development team, Rob Salvagno, said.

Different configurations of the same hardware design could allow a chip to process packets in different ways, corporate business development manager at Cisco, Steve Fu, said.

Initially, Cisco aimed to integrate Greenfield technology in fixed-configuration and modular switches, Salvagno said.

Cisco had many products in the metro Ethernet area and saw rapid growth there, he said.

"We're excited about Greenfield because we're excited about the metro Ethernet market," Salvagno said.

Greenfield has 60 employees in the US and in India. With regulatory approvals, the deal should close in the second quarter of Cisco's 2007 fiscal year, which ends January. The employees and products will be integrated into Cisco's Ethernet and Wireless Technology Group.

Greenfield will wind down its relationships with other system vendors and has worked out transition plans with them, according to Cisco. One vendor that has announced it was a Greenfield customer is Huawei-3Com, the joint venture between 3Com and Chinese networking giant, Huawei Technologies.

Huawei-3Com said in April 2005 it would use the Greenfield's Packetry chipset in an upcoming next generation of high-end Ethernet switches.

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