Professor’s Startup Plans Programmable Ultrafast Chips

Wall Street Journal writer Don Clark reported late last week that, “An influential academic who helped define a new wave of networking is laying plans to unleash the next, hoping to displace chips that have long held a dominant position in the field.

Barefoot Networks Inc., a startup co-founded by Stanford University professor Nick McKeown, on Tuesday disclosed plans to sell ultrafast chips for switching systems that can be programmed in new ways. The idea is to let companies add special features to their networks, improve security and eliminate costly special-purpose hardware.

“The Palo Alto, Calif., company also announced a new $57 million funding round led by Alphabet Inc.’s Google unit and an investment arm of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., taking its total raised to date to $130 million.”

The article noted that, “Barefoot is mounting a direct challenge to Broadcom Ltd., the leader in a switching-chip market that analysts value at more than $2 billion annually. Potential customers include cloud-service providers and makers of networking hardware such as Cisco Systems Inc., which sometimes uses Broadcom chips and sometimes designs its own.”

Mr. Clark explained that, “The startup, incorporated in May 2013, operated initially out of a commercial garage before expanding next door. Other co-founders include two networking chip veterans from Texas Instruments Inc.: Martin Izzard, Barefoot’s chief executive; and Pat Bosshart, its chief technology officer.

“Initial seed funding for the 80-employee company came from Mr. McKeown and John Hennessy, who stepped down recently as president of Stanford University. Barefoot has raised $75 million to date, led by venture-capital firms Sequoia Capital, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Andreessen Horowitz.”

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