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Topspin Communications: A start-up to watch

Apr 21, 20032 mins
Data Center

These young vendors offer fresh approaches for addressing today's enterprise network challenges, from setting up secure wireless LANs to virtualizing data center resources.

Topspin Communications

Company name: The founders are tennis enthusiasts; putting topspin on a ball, causing it to rotate forward, requires much skill and control.

Origin: Founded in April 2000 by CTO Ross Schibler, formerly of Bay Networks, and Keith Wilkinson, vice president of hardware architecture, formerly of Lucent.

Funding: A $30 million second round closed in July 2002, bringing total funding to $48 million.

Investors: Accel Partners, Advent International, Duff Ackerman & Goodrich, Presidio Venture Partners and Redpoint Ventures.

CEO: Krish Ramakrishnan, formerly of Cisco, where he built and managed the content business unit.

Product: Topspin 90 Switched Computing System and Topspin 360 Switched Computing System.

Topspin Communications took a listing technology – InfiniBand, the next-generation I/O bus -and righted it with its own special spin. In the last six months, the company launched two intelligent multiprotocol appliances that interconnect servers clustered with InfiniBand for attachment to Gigabit Ethernet networks and Fibre Channel  storage-area networks.

Topspin’s game is data center virtualization. The goal of the high-end Topspin 360 Switched Computing System and the entry-level Topspin 90, which also host third-party applications for provisioning, security and other functions, is to make it possible for business-critical applications to run more efficiently and faster than they do in a traditional data center operation.

The switched approach and use of InfiniBand lets businesses overcome processing bottlenecks, the Mountain View, Calif., company says. The system CPU is relieved from processing I/O requests; rather, the network and storage devices process I/O themselves and the CPU is free to run applications.

The Topspin 360 consists of as many as 72 ports of InfiniBand, Fibre Channel or Gigabit Ethernet; the Topspin 90 has as many as 16 InfiniBand, two gigabit Fibre Channel and four Gigabit Ethernet ports. Pricing for the Topspin switches starts at $1,000 per port.

Topspin is not alone in its determination to finesse data center virtualization with multiprotocol switched network gear. Among competitors are start-ups InfiniCon Systems and Voltaire, both intent on putting their own spins on virtualization. So far customers Brigham Young University, Los Alamos National Laboratory and University of Washington like Topspin’s game.