Intel spinoff looks to boost processing power

A month ago, Randy Smerik was running a division within Intel Corp.’s Communications Group and overseeing about a half-dozen projects centering on intelligent traffic management. Today, he’s heading up an Intel spinoff that is focusing on high-speed content processing.

Smerik convinced Intel’s management to spin off the company, and he incorporated it as Tarari Inc. last month. The company publicly launches this week with US$13 million from Crosspoint Venture Partners and XMLFund in the bank; a new headquarters in San Diego; and a staff of 37. Intel holds a minority investment in Tarari. The spinoff plans to ship its first product, a PCI card that will boost network security processing, later this year.

Tarari is building what Smerik refers to as “content processors,” specialized processing engines that can look inside packets and intelligently route traffic based on internal payloads. Tarari’s core technology is a silicon platform that is based on re-programmable hardware, ASICs and software that can be designed to process specific applications – and do it at gigabit speeds. Tarari plans to sell the plug-and-play devices to OEMs that would fit them into network equipment and servers to boost intelligent processing power.

Smerik wouldn’t talk about partners or customers, although he says there are several alpha and beta tests under way. He says Tarari’s product will make offerings from companies such as Cisco Systems Inc., IBM Corp., F5 Networks Inc., Symantec Corp., Oracle Corp., Microsoft Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co. run better.

Initially, Tarari will introduce specialized engines for network security and XML-based Web services, where Smerik’s team sees the most need.

“Enterprises, data centres, service providers and telecommunications companies all want to raise the bar in how they can intelligently control and handle traffic,” Smerik says.

“They want to put virus checking in the network,” he says. “They want to have XML switching and XML processing on servers. And they want to do all that without bogging down the network, which is what happens today. We solve that pain.”

Companies such as Array Networks Inc., Nauticus Networks Inc. and Inkra Networks Inc. all have products that speed Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) acceleration, and others such as DataPower Technology Inc. and Sarvega Inc. tackle XML processing. Smerik looks at such companies not as competitors, but as possible partners.

Bruce Dick, a director at XMLFund, says Tarari is providing a flexible platform that will be able to address network bottlenecks.

“You look at the network environment and there are always various bottlenecks – it could be on the virus side or the XML side or SSL,” Dick says. “This is a flexible platform architecture that allows people to build an appliance and start tackling one or more of those things in their unique fashion.”