MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.NextHop Technologies Inc. hopes a new version of its licensable GateD embedded router code will establish a leading position for the software in both core and edge routers. The company has also announced that IBM Microelectronics will port GateD software directly to the PowerNP NP4GS3 network processor, as a result of NextHop's efforts to work directly with network processor vendors.
NextHop was founded in 2000 shortly after the GateD Consortium released the prior version of GateD, which added support for OSPF, IPv6, IP multicast, and IS-IS support. Edward Cluss joined the company last year as chief executive from New Enterprise Associates, which led a round that brought $11 million in Series A funding to NextHop.
Although Riverstone Networks Inc. and other router manufacturers rely on GateD, Cluss said NextHop's efforts to expand to a wider range of router makers and to semiconductor partners has required it to explain precisely what has happened to GateD. NextHop founder Sue Hares was the former director of the GateD Consortium. The GateD suite was regularly updated through the Merit network centered at the University of Michigan. Commercial customers like IBM Corp. and MCI Communications had worked with Merit since the early 1990s, but a true commercial version of GateD, release 9.0, did not arrive before mid-2001. NextHop's latest version is release 9.3.
The modular delineation in the GateD software architecture between control plane and datapath functions fits with the model used by most network processor vendors, said NextHop's vice president of marketing Dennis Tsu, a former director of business operations at Cisco Systems Inc. NextHop's pact with IBM Microelectronics is part of a new drive at to encourage semiconductor vendors to bundle GateD router code with their subsystem offerings, he said.
NextHop configures its software so that all versions include a core module with support for RIP and RIP2 protocols. On top of that, licensees can layer either an IPv4 Multicast package with a multicast IGMP core with modules of PIM, DVMRP, and MSDP protocols; an IPv4 Unicast package with IS-IS, OSPF, and BGP; or an IPv6 Unicast package with next-gen RIP, MP-BGP, and IS-IS extended for v6. The entire suite of unicast and multicast versions now extends to more than 450,000 lines of code.
Release 9.3 represents an expansion primarily in terms of connection scaling, since the software now can support more than 64,000 interfaces. This is a direct response to the plans for extremely high-density aggregation platforms at the edge of the public network, said vice president of engineering John Tavs.
The 20 engineers from the University of Michigan who formed the backbone of NextHop have been augmented with staff on the service side. This puts NextHop into an unusual space, company executive said, where it competes with software specialists such as IPInfusion Inc., Wind River Systems Inc., an d FutureSoft Inc., as well as with embedded packages from such companies as NetPlane Systems, and the merged GlobespanVirata organization.
The new partnership programs at NextHop will be aimed at both network processor vendors and real-time operating system specialists. While some net processor developers expect standard control-plane processors will displace ASICs soon, Tsu said NextHop anticipates retaining a program indefinitely to license source code to network equipment manufacturers. Many router vendors, as well as OEMs that embed router functions in residential gateways or handsets, want to keep direct control of router code, he said.