Procket provides a peek

News flash! Procket Networks, the secretive start-up building next-generation IP (Internet Protocol) infrastructure equipment, actually called us, the press, last week to fill us in on ...

Not a whole lot, really.

The company, founded three years ago initially to develop high-speed packet processors, remains secretive about its actual products and their availability. Industry insiders believe Procket is developing a high-speed backbone routing system that will compete against Cisco Systems Inc. and Juniper Networks Inc.

But rather than "limiting" Procket within the context of the next maker of a hot IP box, the company would rather be considered the designer of a reliable multiservice packet network architecture, President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Randall Kruep says.

"[We're] developing a whole new networkwide architecture," Kruep says. "We're really driving the whole availability, consistency, predictability of the network. Our vision and intent is to play networkwide."

Availability of products to support this architecture will be disclosed later this year, he says.

"We've passed through most of the serious gates in terms of risk, and we're feeling very comfortable, but we still have a substantial amount of work to do in order to engage the market," Kruep says.

Kruep also disclosed that Procket has raised US$272 million after three rounds of funding, and its systems are currently in various stages of trial with 15 to 20 global carriers. These trials will continue throughout the year.

The company's investors do not include carriers or vendors - as is the case with Juniper - but Procket will have "significant" partnerships with these parties and will disclose them at a later date, Kruep says.

But this information was all gleaned from questions posed to Kruep. What Procket announced last week was the addition of two people to its board of directors: founder and Chief Scientist Tony Li, a highly-regarded routing software engineer who helped design Cisco's market-leading Internet routers; and Dan Warmenhoven, CEO of Network Appliance, and a longtime computer and network industry veteran.

Warmenhoven brings operational expertise to Procket. As CEO of Network Appliance since 1994, Warmenhoven led the company from start up through initial public offering to become a billion-dollar company and a leading enterprise network storage company. Previously, he was CEO of Network Equipment Technologies and held senior management positions at Hewlett-Packard and IBM.

Li also conceived Juniper's early routing products after leaving Cisco to help found Cisco's 5-year-old rival. Kruep says Li tells the story of how he was the fifth person hired by Juniper but he still arrived too late to set the company's technical direction.

He will have no such bad luck at Procket. As chief scientist and one of the company's three co-founders, Li will continue to remain at the forefront of Procket's product development efforts.

Li and another co-founder and board member - former Sun processor designer Bill Lynch - oversee teams of routing and network processing engineers at Procket. Lynch spent the last 19 years architecting high-performance microprocessors at companies like Sun, including Sun's Ultra SPARC chip. Much of the mystique and anticipation around Procket has to do with the combination of Lynch's network processor prowess with Li's routing software smarts.

In addition to Li, Lynch, Warmenhoven and Kruep, Procket's board is comprised of Richard Lowenthal, formerly founder of Lightera and vice president of engineering of Stratacom; Stuart Phillips, general partner with U.S. Venture Partners; and Geoff Yang, general partner with Redpoint Ventures.

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