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IBM adds optics to chip arsenal

Big Blue announces plans to create high-speed processors for the fast-growing optical networking equipment market, striking a deal with chipmaker Multilink Technology.

IBM today announced plans to create high-speed processors for the fast-growing optical networking equipment market.

The company struck a deal this morning with chipmaker Multilink Technology to develop chips for optical networking gear, used by service providers to build high-speed networks to handle the explosion of Internet traffic.

Big Blue also announced it is taking a minority stake in Multilink and hopes to begin manufacturing the new processors by next year. The new processor will use IBM's "silicon germanium" technology, which speeds processors and is used in networking equipment and handheld devices.

With today's announcement, IBM joins Applied Micro Circuits, Lucent Technologies, PMC-Sierra and other chipmakers in the optical networking market, says analyst Fred Zieber of Pathfinder Research. Fiber-optic networks transmit signals as pulses of light rather than electronic signals, allowing them to handle a greater volume of traffic at higher speeds.

In related communications chips news, Vitesse Semiconductor today said it will use IBM's silicon germanium technology in its own optical networking chips.

At the SuperComm trade show in Atlanta, Motorola announced it has integrated C-Port's network processor and software development technology into its family of communications processors. Motorola in February acquired C-Port for $420 million.

C-Port's software development tools, based on the C programming language, will allow networking firms that use Motorola's chips to quickly add new features into their networking equipment.

With its C-Port acquisition, Motorola joined Intel, IBM, Lucent Technologies, Conexant and others in building a new breed of network processors that are fast and programmable.

These processors are the engines that power new networking equipment from companies like Cisco Systems, Lucent and Nortel Networks. That new equipment, in turn, will allow Internet service providers and telecommunications carriers to increase Net bandwidth and offer better security, and new services such as Internet telephony.