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Chips ahoy! How C-Port could shake things up

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In a piece called "The Fabless Phenomenon," ( published last March, we told you about a new breed of semiconductor manufacturers that promises to rock the industry by building low-cost chips that deliver powerful network capabilities.

Last week, I met with a company that plans to push the network chip revolution even further. If C-Port Corp. achieves its goals, you will get not only more powerful, less expensive net devices, but you also will be able to keep the gear longer while adding functionality.

C-Port's goal is to create a common microprocessor platform, supporting a variety of network functions, that software developers can easily customize with innovative features.

Call it "C-Port Inside." By giving device manufacturers basic building block functions and programming interfaces, C-Port ( could free the manufacturers from having to be experts in costly chip design. The vendors can divert their resources to building unique - and more profitable - software features.

Having a standard chip platform might benefit customers in a number of ways.

Vendors could stop competing on speeds and feeds and start focusing on delivering new policy management, quality and other advanced features faster.

Network gear would last longer because new features could be deployed without hardware upgrades.

A software industry could develop to build new features and tools for network gear - much like the PC software industry grew around Intel's platform.

Competitors could spring up more easily because they wouldn't have to build their own chips.

Customers could build their own functions on top of the chip platform and could pressure vendors to deliver new features more quickly.

C-Port's goals are lofty, and the company will face a number of challenges in order to make good on them. But C-Port has strong management and venture backing, and it seems to be winning over some big players, like Nortel Networks, to its vision.

Keep your eye on C-Port. It may just bring about a sea change in networking.

- John Gallant

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