Silverback Emerges From the Mist

Secures $15M in funding to build storage networking chip

September 26, 2001

3 Min Read
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Silverback Systems Inc. broke its cover Tuesday to collect $15 million in funding for the development of a network chip it says will be optimized for delivering storage traffic over IP.

Investors in Silverback's second round of financing include J.P. Morgan & Co., Newbury Ventures, Pitango Venture Capital, and Gemini Israel Funds of Israel.

Named after the strongest gorilla in the world, Silverback, the startup hopes to be the King Kong of the storage-over-IP chip market and is gathering the credentials needed to give it a crack.

Our processor is no ordinary network processor,” claims Silverback president and CEO Danny Biran, a former VP and general manager at LSI Logic Corp. (NYSE: LSI).

He is joined by chief software architect Somesh Gupta, who was previously head of storage-over-IP strategy at Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HWP). Aamer Latif, president and CEO of Nishan Systems Inc., a frontrunner in the SAN-over-IP space, is a prominent fixture on the company’s board.All chest-pounding aside, though, Silverback might be on to something.

Its XTR 2100 chip, expected to ship in the first quarter of 2002, is designed for TOE (TCP/IP offload engine) cards. Made by LSI Logic, Alacritech Inc., and others, these devices are designed to relieve servers of processor-intensive TCP/IP processing -- a necessary step when planning for storage-over-IP communication. Silverback's chip can also take care of iSCSI processing, a feature Adaptec Inc. announced after a recent acquisition, but has not delivered yet (see Adaptec Pockets Platys).

Aside from selling the chips to the server HBA vendors, Silverback also has designs on the major storage vendors and the networking firms. “This chip can sit inside an EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC) storage array or a Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) Catalyst 6000 and do the same job. Our goal is to sell it to everyone,” says Biran.

This is where Silverback’s strategy differs from its nearest rival in the startup space, Trebia Networks Inc. Not much is known about this company yet, but from what we can tell its focus is on selling chipsets that bridge iSCSI to Fibre Channel for use by switch and router vendors. Still, Trebia has plenty of VC attention too (see Trebia's $40M Secret).

Another potential threat for Silverback is Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC), although the chip giant is far more likely to acquire the startup than build a chip to compete with it. Intel currently has a deal with Wind River Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: WIND) for TCP/IP processing. Still, Intel's general-purpose chips are not designed for intensive network protocol processing, whatever software runs on them, analysts say.They also believe that removing the bottleneck created on the server by TCP/IP processing will be critical to the success of IP storage, which means Silverback is definitely one to watch.

— Jo Maitland, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

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