Lucent buys up SONET chip firm

Lucent Technologies Inc. continued to feed its seemingly insatiable appetite for technology companies by gobbling up Ottawa-based systems-on-a-chip manufacturer Sybarus Technologies.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but privately held Sybarus with its 35 employees is a relative snack compared to some of Lucent’s other recent acquisitions.

Sybarus designs integrated circuits for Synchronous Optical Network (SONET) and Synchronous Digital Hierarchy systems. “Systems-on-a-chip” refers to the process of integrating memory and processors into a single piece of silicon, providing all the functionality of a computer system on a single silicon chip.

Sybarus will continue to operate as a semi-independent unit as part of Lucent’s Microelectronics Group. The group sells semiconductors to a number of computer equipment manufacturers including other Lucent units and Lucent competitors such as Nortel Networks and Cisco Systems Inc.

Sybarus had acted as a chip supplier to Lucent for 18 months before the deal.

Richard DeBoer, Sybarus’s co-founder, former CEO and now director of development for Lucent, speculated Lucent went after his company because the market for SONET gear is heating up.

“What’s happening is the SONET infrastructure is growing at phenomenal rates,” he said. “Starting in 1997 with the explosion of data, SONET has really taken off and currently there’s a very large demand for SONET components from equipment manufacturers.”

DeBoer added 1999 is expected to be a big year for design wins in the SONET equipment market.

“I think it’s generally agreed in the industry that this is the year market share will be gained,” he said.

Sybarus will operate as a Lucent Broadband Centre of Excellence, meaning it will continue to exist as a stand-alone design and R&D centre.

“To put it in simple terms, Sybarus is now a small company with the depth of a massive company behind it,” said Nizar Rida, Sybarus co-founder, former vice-president of engineering and current senior manager.