Trebia's $40M Secret

Trebia says SANs need dedicated network processors -- and $40+ million says investors agree

July 24, 2001

4 Min Read
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Trebia Networks Inc., a startup dedicated to the proposition that SANs need their own specialized network processor chips, has scored $30 million in a second round of funding. The round brings Trebia's total funding to over $40 million since its inception in July 2000.

Trebia says it will use the money to build its product, which it calls a storage network processor (SNP). Like the network processors that have emerged over the past year for use in broadband switches and routers, Trebia's chips will be designed as off-the-shelf network building blocks, capable of handling tasks that otherwise require complex and costly ASICs (application-specific integrated circuits).

But unlike today's network processors, Trebia's products will be designed for what the startup views as the unique requirements of storage networks. To quote its mission statement, Trebia hopes to "create an entirely new category of network processor that will redefine storage networking capabilities."

The specifics of what Trebia aims to do are still secret. Company spokespeople say an "architectural announcement" is scheduled for this fall, with a product release at an unspecified date after that. Until then, any details of its chips are strictly on the QT.

However, while the precise functions of Trebia's chips aren't known, some of its features are: Trebia plans to support a range of protocols in its products, including Fibre Channel and gigabit Ethernet. And since Trebia's Website says that the company is a member of the IP Forum of the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) and the iSCSI consortium of the University of New Hampshire InterOperability Lab (IOL), it's probably safe to assume that the company intends some support of emerging specs for IP-based SANs. Trebia also is a member of the Fibre Channel Industry Association (FCIA) and the Fibre Channel consortiums of the IOL.Trebia's claims to have a specialized SAN network processor have some experts stumped. They say network processors designed to filter and manage traffic in broadband applications can be easily adapted to SANs. Indeed, vendors say their chips already are used for SAN gear. "Roughly ten percent of our design wins are in the SAN area," says Graham Allan, director of marketing at SiberCore Technologies. He says that figure could get much bigger, depending on how well customers adopt a model of using SANs as data-retrieval VPNs (virtual private networks).

Applied Micro Circuits Corp. (AMCC) (Nasdaq: AMCC) also claims SAN customers for its network processors, but spokespeople say the company's waiting to see whether the market is sufficient to justify creating storage-specific processors.

But Trebia insists SANs have special requirements. "Traffic characterization, throughput, and forwarding rates are different in SANs than they are in LANs or WANs," says CEO Bob Conrad.

"It sounds like they plan chips that are either faster or cheaper than what's offered now," says Colin K. Mick, president of The Mick Group consultancy, and CEO of the Network Processing Forum (NPF) (of which Trebia is not a member).

Mick says that a couple of SAN companies say they're looking at network processing components, but none have specified that they require different capabilities than what's presently offered by companies such as AMCC, Cypress Semiconductor Corp. (NYSE: CY), Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), NetLogic Microsystems Inc., or SiberCore. These firms already are working on 40-Gbit/s rates and a range of multiprotocol support.CEO Conrad can't be led on any of this, except to say that Trebia's funding is a vote of confidence in a market segment that's going to be very hot indeed. "Just 25 percent of storage is networked today," he says. But he quotes figures from IDC that put total revenues from the sale of switches and routers for SANs at $8 billion in 2004. Trebia hopes to make its fortune selling chips to makers of those switches and routers.

This round of Trebia's funding was led by Atlas Venture. The round included input from Allianz, BancBoston Ventures, Deutsche Banc Alex Brown LLC, Raza Foundries, and VantagePoint Venture Partners, among others.

There was a conspicuous absence of strategic partner funding. Conrad says the startup didn't need the extra money badly enough to alienate any potential customers by taking funds from their competitors.

Besides Conrad, who hails from Analog Devices Inc. (NYSE: ADI) and Texas Instruments Inc. (NYSE: TXN), Trebia's management team includes founder and CTO Jon Sreekanth (ex-ACI, DEC, Bellabs, Nexion, and Telco Systems); founder and VP of business development Tom Riddle (ex-Silicon Value); VP of marketing Brendon Howe (ex-NaviPath, Indus River, 3Com, Proteon, Analog Devices); VP of engineering Wayne Koch (ex-IBM, Actel, Sky Computers, and Hewlett Packard); and VP of finance Martin Riegel (ex-Intel). Trebia has 50 employees.

- Mary Jander, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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