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Raza Micro jumps into Ethernet-everywhere craze

Company's new chip family marries the traditional phone network with Ethernet, the basis for corporate networks.

Raza Microelectronics, one of the companies founded by a former president of Advanced Micro Devices, has come out with a new communications chip meant to expand the reach of Ethernet.

The Orion family of processors essentially marries the Sonet technology, or the traditional phone network, with Ethernet, the basis for corporate networks, making a high-speed network. Creating equipment for this market would lower the cost of installing new networks, advocates say, and get more life out of existing gear.

"The claim to fame for Sonet is that it never goes down," said Jim Johnston, vice president of marketing for the intelligent-access solutions group at Raza Microelectronics, which has offices in Cupertino, Calif.; Bangalore, India; and Beijing, among other places.

The chips can also be used to deliver voice, video and data over DSL lines in the home. "What the carriers want to do is offer IPTV into the home," Johnston said.

One network equipment manufacturer already sells boxes running on the chip, and about three others are looking at it. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. will produce the chip on behalf of Raza.

A number of companies are working on ways to extend the reach of traditional LANs (local area networks). No one, after all, wants to plant new equipment all over the place. India's Tejas Networks, for instance, sells Sonet-over-Ethernet equipment. Other chip companies are working on similar projects.

"In India, you can take out an Ethernet lease line. You can't do that in the states," said Tejas CEO Sanjay Nayak.

Raza Microelectronics was founded by Atiq Raza, who served as AMD's chief operating officer, as well as its president, during the late 1990s. After leaving AMD in 1999, he went on to form Raza Foundries, a venture firm. The firm no longer actively makes investments, but some of the companies it invested in earlier contributed technology to Raza Microelectronics.