Home area networks drive Linksys deal

Cisco's purchase is paying off

The integration of broadband gateways into home networking takes a big leap forward with the recent acquisition by Cisco’s Linksys division of the intellectual property and selected assets of Ashley Laurent, which develops software for DSL gateway devices.

The eight employees of the Austin, Texas, company will join the Home Networking Business Unit of Linksys and move to a Cisco office in Austin, says Malachy Moynihan, the unit’s vice president and general manager. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Ashley Laurent develops embedded software for functions such as routing, firewalling, quality of service and virus protection in the increasingly sophisticated modems that bring broadband service into homes. Its customers include system-makers, such as 3Com and D-Link, as well as chip-makers Texas Instruments and Advanced Micro Devices.

Linksys has been outsourcing much of its software development to outside companies, including Ashley Laurent, but it plans to bring more of that work in-house through its latest purchase. Linksys sees a growing opportunity to integrate special features for VoIP and multimedia into gateways, says Moynihan.

Linksys has not been a big player in the gateway industry, but the company sees the devices being combined with the wireless-equipped routers that have been a mainstay of its business. More sophisticated gateways could help telecoms carriers capitalise on lucrative new services, he says.

As broadband evolves from being primarily a web-browsing tool into a “triple-play” or “quad-play” service that could include TV, telephone, data and mobile services, the box where the carrier’s service hits the home network is likely to play a growing role.

The Linksys acquisition follows hot on the heels of a Motorola investment in Ruckus Wireless. The Californian startup makes wireless LAN devices with special features for sending streaming video around the home and sees Motorola possibly integrating that gear into some IP-based cable set-top boxes.

One thing Linksys wants to get out of the Ashley Laurent acquisition is greater consistency across different gateway devices.

Some carriers provide the boxes themselves, but Linksys wants more consumers to be able to buy gateways at retail outlets that will work with their carriers’ services, says Moynihan. DSL devices have lacked the solid standards used in cable modems, he says.

Linksys is also aiming for consistency in the software family it uses in its gateways and in the other devices it supplies for use around the home, such as networking adapters for TVs. Consistent software would allow for special capabilities, he says. The products would still comply with standards and work with other vendors’ products at a basic level, says Moynihan.

However, other vendors who have been using Ashley Laurent software will be left out in the cold by the deal.

The company will fulfill existing contracts with other vendors, but development on future products for them will end, says Moynihan.

In addition to 3Com and D-Link, Ashley Laurent customers in the fiercely competitive networking business include NetGear, Telefonaktiebolaget, Ericsson, Accton Technology and LG Electronics.

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More about 3Com Australia3Com AustraliaAcctonAdvanced Micro Devices Far EastAdvanced Micro Devices Far EastCiscoD-Link AustraliaEricsson AustraliaLANLGLG Electronics AustraliaLinksysMotorolaRuckus WirelessTechnologyTexas Instruments Australia

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