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Interview Published March 23, 2004

Ron Cates, SolarFlare

Ron Cates is VP of Marketing of Irvine-based SolarFlare ( SolarFlare introduced its new 10Gigabit Ethernet over copper products yesterday, and I thought a quick look at what the company is doing would be useful.

BK: What are SolarFlare's products, and what is the new 10Gigabit Ethernet over copper innovation you are introducing?

RC: Solarflare is developing a transceiver in compliance with the emerging IEEE 802.3an standard for 10 Gigabit per second transmission over ordinary twisted pair cable - the same cable that now connects almost 900 million computers and Ethernet switches worldwide. Recent innovations in semiconductor process technology and digital signal processing algorithms have made this possible. Heretofore it was believed that only optical transmission was possible at these data rates.

BK: Why GigE over Copper, why not go directly to optical?

RC: Copper-based transmission is more cost-effective than optical transmission. Optical transmission requires optical modules with laser devices and optical fibers with expensive connectors. Three previous generations of Ethernet, at 10Mbps, 100Mbps, and 1Gbps, have demonstrated that when copper transmission is possible, cost of ownership dramatically decreases while deployment increases. IT managers do not have to install new wiring in order to upgrade their network to a transmission rate that is ten times faster. SolarFlare's product will work on already installed cables.

BK: How long have your products been in development?

RC: Three years.

BK: What is your company's unfair competitive advantage over your competitors?

RC: We have a three year head start over the competition because we recognized the need and the implementation possibilities ahead of anyone else. Additionally, our engineers have developed new algorithms that drastically reduce the amount of hardware required to implement the transceiver, thereby reducing the cost of ownership to the end-customer.

BK: Who are your investors, and how much capital have your raised?

RC: We have been able to raise just over $29 million from Sequoia Capital, Foundation Capital, Anthem Venture Partners, Intel Capital, Windward Ventures, and Miramar Ventures.

BK: Thanks!

Copyright (c) 2004 by Benjamin F. Kuo. All rights reserved.
May not be reprinted without permission.