IBM sees network processor rebound in late 2002

IBM Corp. expects to see a rebound in the network processor market late next year, driven mainly by demand for LAN access and mobile phone base stations -- a forecast that a company executive is likely to talk about in a speech next week.

Armando Garcia, vice president of network processors in IBM's Microelectronics division, plans to address those issues in a keynote address at the Network Processors Conference in San Jose, California, Wednesday. IBM is also expected to unveil several new initiatives surrounding its own PowerNP network processor at the show.

"He's going to talk about the market environment," said Steve Longoria, director of marketing for network processing, IBM Microelectronics, referring to Garcia's upcoming speech. "The LAN is now 100 megabit. But we see the LAN upgrading to gigabit because gigabit copper transceivers have reached the critical cost point to enable that transition."

There also are more demands on networks now than in the past. "They're being asked to do things servers used to do, such as having more intelligence in load balancing," Longoria said. "We see that as creating opportunities for network processors."

Third-generation (3G) cellular stations will be another factor in the rebound, Garcia is expected to say. "It has been delayed by about a year, and we think 3G will start to be deployed in the middle of next year, causing a ripple effect," Longoria said.

The WAN (wide area network) market will be the last to pick up, with the OC-192, or 10-Gigabit Ethernet, lagging until at least 2004, Garcia is expected to say. "We'll see modest, if any, recovery in the OC-192 space before 2004, especially in the (network processing) space," Longoria said.

IBM is also expected to extend its developers support program to cover the PowerNP processor, as well as to make a software developer's tool kit and hardware reference platform available. The company is also expected to announce two new low-end, low-power processors, as well as a new version of its PowerNP NP4GS3 processor.

The Network Processors Conference is in San Jose Tuesday through Thursday of next week. More information can be found on the Web at http://www.networkprocessors.com/.

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