Today, chipmaker Solarflare Communications raised $32 million in funding and $12 million in debt for its 10-Gigabit Ethernet over copper chips — bringing its total funding to about $170 million. As I said in June, when it raised $26 million, that’s a lot — even for a chipmaker. The Irvine, Calif.-based startup raised the equity from Oak Investment Partners, Acacia Capital and Anthem Venture Partners, and the debt from an undisclosed firm.
So, what exactly is so exciting about this company? It’s trying to make networking faster and cheaper. The 10GigE over copper standard will boost the current speeds offered by Gigabit Ethernet in data centers, while boosting those speeds still using copper keeps folks from having to do a wholesale upgrade of their cabling. Solarflare is also trying to integrate two aspects — the controller and the PHY — onto a single chip. Once integrated, it’s possible to put the 10GigE chips on the motherboard of a server (rather than adding an adapter), turning an upgrade into a feature.
Solarflare has said it plans to offer an integrated 10GigE chip in 2009, and last month Mellanox announced one in conjunction with Teranatics, which makes the PHY. Solarflare may still compete on its low power consumption, but it will also end up facing off against Intel and Broadcom, which is pursuing the 10 GigE market after having made a mint offering integrated chips for the Gigabit Ethernet market. It’s a good thing Solarflare raised more money — in a market this large and competitive, it’s going to need it.