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IBM guns for Intel with comms chip strategy

Both companies' approaches remarkably similar

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IBM today announced the IBM Network Processor (INP), the programmable processor its hopes will propel it to the forefront of the communications device component market. The only snag: Intel did almost exactly the same thing yesterday. IBM's shift to comms chips follows hard on the heels of its decision to sell is comms hardware business to Cisco. So instead of selling routers, hubs and switches, it will sell the chips that power them. The INP's USP is that it replaces the ASICs typically used in comms devices, allowing manufacturers to update their products with a simple software upgrade rather than fabbing a whole new ASIC. IBM also said today it was partnering with Massachusetts-based comms processor specialist C-Port to develop a standard set of APIs for programmable networking devices, and to make their respective product offerings interoperable. The C-Port deal mirrors to some extent Intel's plan to buy NetBoost, a Californian company working in the same area. Intel didn't say how much it had paid for NetBoost, but sources close to the company told US newswires that the sum was in the region of $50 million. Intel also announced yesterday its Internet Exchange Architecture (IXA), the basis for a series of... programmable processors for network devices, themselves based on technology Chipzilla acquired when it bought Level One earlier this year. Intel's drive for dominance is spearheaded by a $200 million slush fund to be used to finance start-ups and existing companies keen to back support IXA. IBM's answer is its Communications Research and Development Centre (CRDC) -- a thinktank in which Big Blue boffins will attempt to come up with the technologies Intel hopes to gain access to buy funding start-ups. IBM didn't say so explicitly but the CRDC's role will be to develop and then give away technology reference designs that third-parties can then use with the chips they will be buying off IBM. That's certainly the approach being taken by IBM to persuade would-be Internet appliance, set-top box and 'thin server' vendors to base their products on IBM PowerPC technology. ® Related Story Big Blue backs out of networking via Cisco deal

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