StarGen Wishes on ASI

Chip startup lands another $15M in its pursuit of the Advanced Switching Interconnect market

August 12, 2005

2 Min Read
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Three years ago, StarGen Inc. was a bit player with a proprietary switch fabric. Today, the company is spearheading a standards push that's drawn the support of heavy hitters such as

The plan seems to be working, as it netted StarGen a $15 million funding round earlier this week (see StarGen Scores $15.5M).

StarGen has hitched itself to Advanced Switching Interconnect (ASI), an emerging standard for chip-to-chip communications and backplanes. It's the backplane part that could be important to telecom, as ASI is among the switching options available for the Advanced Telecom Computing Architecture (ATCA). And ASI has applications elsewhere: Xyratex Ltd. (Nasdaq: XRTX), for example, plans to apply ASI to storage networking (see Xyratex Branches Out).

StarGen is taking an early lead in ASI, though, as the company came to Supercomm in June with what it claimed was the first example of ASI silicon (see StarGen Intros ASI Switch).

"The first-generation product development is funded and nearing completion. This round is to augment the software and the sales and marketing side -- especially sales," says Wade Appelman, StarGen's vice president of marketing.This week's funding is the second round raised by the new StarGen. The company was founded in 1999 to pursue a proprietary switching architecture called StarFabric, and it raised $41 million in three rounds toward that cause. But that was in the days when startups had high hopes of selling network processors and switch fabrics to equipment startups. As the OEM pool dried up, so did the chip startups.

When its third funding round came in 2003, StarGen was already talking about ASI, then abbreviated "AS" because backers were just starting to figure out that three-letter acronyms are cooler (see StarGen Generates $15M and NPF Announces New Interface Spec). By its $8.5 million fourth round, in 2004, StarGen had recapitalized and was calling itself an ASI company (see Intel Invests in StarGen and StarGen Gets $8.5M).

Officials therefore like to say StarGen's new incarnation is two rounds and $24 million old, Appelman says.

What's interesting is that StarGen, which employs about 50, claims to have kept its technical talent during the transition. The company's engineers came from Digital Semiconductor and Intel as experts in Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI) bridging, with some of that knowledge being used to develop StarFabric. When it came time to change sides, the team easily picked up on ASI, which takes its cues from the emerging PCI Express standard and therefore has some PCI roots.

"They're a leader, in the sense that they came up with a lot of the intellectual property that went into the ASI spec. They're the furthest ahead in developing silicon," says Jag Bolaria, an analyst with The Linley Group.StarFabric isn't dead, by the way. The technology has picked up more than 75 design wins, and StarGen still supports it.

Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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