Precision I/O Gets $10 M Funding, Announces Product Direction

Precision I/O Inc., a spin-out of Judy Estrin's Packet Design think tank, has secured $10 million in venture funding and is announcing its new network server I/O architecture technology, which

March 25, 2004

3 Min Read
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Precision I/O Inc., a spin-out of Judy Estrin's Packet Design think tank, has secured $10 million in venture funding and is announcing its new network server I/O architecture technology, which it plans to ship first as a software-only product later this year.

Precision I/O's technology is designed to increase the networking performance of application servers by "taking the operating system out of the networking business," Estrin said. Simply, Precision I/O's technology is designed to speed up the sending and receiving of packets by taking those chores over from the server OS.

By increasing network throughput, Estrin said Precision I/O's technology could provide both better application performance per server, as well as cut costs on implementations of server clusters and server grids, by requiring fewer servers and no expensive additional networking infrastructure.

Estrin, one of the networking industry's pioneers and leading entrepreneurs, said Precision I/O's technology is significantly different from other attempts to solve server-to-network bottleneck problems because it uses standard IP and Ethernet infrastructures, requiring no change to protocols or wiring.

While the company's funding and technology press release (which is officially scheduled for release on March 29) did not announce a product name, pricing or ship date, Estrin did say the first version of the product should ship sometime this summer, as software for Unix or Linux servers, with a Windows version to follow later.The first versions of Precision I/O's product will support Gigabit Ethernet environments, but Estrin said the technology is scalable up to 10 Gigabit Ethernet, a speed the company plans to support in future versions. The technology, she said, could also be delivered as a standalone hardware device. Estrin sees Precision I/O's technology as an alternative to existing server-network bottleneck solutions like InfiniBand, which addresses some of the same networking issues, but often with higher implementation costs and complexity.

"Everything else [addressing the server I/O bottleneck] trades off something," Estrin said, be it extra costs or new protocols and wiring needs. "We're using Ethernet and IP."

Precision I/O, which received seed funding from Packet Design when it was spun out last year, now has $10 million in funding from a list of investors that includes Advanced Technology Ventures of Palo Alto, Calif., 3i, Menlo Park, Calif., and Foundation Capital, Menlo Park. While Estrin is acting CEO, the company is actively seeking a full-time chief executive. Van Jacobson, formerly chief scientist at Cisco and a longtime Estrin associate, is Precision I/O's chief scientist and lead thinker behind what Estrin called some "really hard" technology.

"This is a problem we started working on over three years ago," Estrin said, roughly the time she and her husband Bill Carrico left Cisco to form the IP research botique called Packet Design. Packet Design's unique think tank-like structure, she said, allowed it to work on thorny issues like server I/O bottlenecks, which are neither easily nor quickly solved.

"If Packet Design had been a [normal] product company, there are at least three or four times where we would have killed the [Precision I/O] project" because of obstacles in development, Estrin said. Such delays, she added, might not be tolerated at a company that needed a quicker path to revenue. "When we left Cisco," she said, "we knew there were problems out there that would take a little more time to solve."0

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