Founded on the notion that just about everything will eventually be connected via the pervasive Internet protocol, iReady?the name is a shorthand version of "Internet ready"?is developing hardwired TCP/IP processing solutions that may finally make iSCSI as cost-effective as its proponents have been promising.
The promise of iSCSI storage has simply been that it is less expensive than the competing Fibre Channel protocol. However, because building storage-area networks with TCP/IP technology requires massive processing power, as well as TCP/IP offload engines and other add-ons, the ultimate price tag of iSCSI storage has never actually been significantly lower than Fibre Channel.
iReady is determined to accelerate adoption of iSCSI with a portfolio of highly integrated, high-performance and low-priced chips that the company hopes will derail the usual arguments against iSCSI.
Ryo Koyama, who serves as CEO, and John Minami, VP and chief engineer, launched iReady in 1996 as an IP licensing company. Based on its early work, iReady actually holds the fundamental patent on implementing TCP/IP in hardware.
Koyama's background includes serving as senior director of marketing at Media Vision and marketing consultant for Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center. He holds two U.S. patents, and was the founding chairman of RAPID, a trade association focused on promoting the use and acceptance of intellectual property in the electronics industry.
Before co-founding iReady, Minami spent a decade in a variety of architecture and design-management positions in the computer and semiconductor industries. He is principally responsible for iReady's patented architecture relating to its protocol processors. Minami previously served as design manager for various multimedia products at Integrated Circuit Systems, and held several senior design positions at Everex Systems and Memorex.
In April 2002, iReady brought in Intel veteran Gary Thomas to serve as president and COO. Thomas held a number of positions at Intel, including director of Intel Capital, GM of the Graphics Components Division, GM of the Santa Clara Microprocessor Division, director of engineering at the Santa Clara Microprocessor Division, and director of engineering in the PCI Components Division.
One interesting aspect of the company is that Koyama's father, Eiichi Koyama, works for his son as VP of strategic relations. Before joining iReady in 1997 , Eiichi Koyama was with Sun Microsystems, where he spent 10 years managing relationships between Sun and its large-scale Japanese partners. Earlier, E. Koyama was an executive for Motorola and LearSiegler.
iReady is headquartered in Santa Clara, Calif., although a few lucky employees work out of a design center based in Honolulu, Hawaii.
When iReady decided to go fabless in summer 2000, the company wisely sought a partner that was strong in the Ethernet space. Thus, iReady formed a tight partnership with National Semiconductor, which has served the startup well. National is not only co-developing products with iReady, it is also a financial partner, having led iReady's $19-million B round in March 2002. National also serves as foundry partner, and will eventually be a distribution partner as well.
As part of its deal with iReady, National can license the startup's IP to develop derivative chips it can distribute through its channels. However, this is a special case and iReady does not license its IP to anyone else.
iReady has raised a total of $73 million over five rounds from National Semiconductor, Canaan Partners, B.J. Cassin, Crescendo Venture, Crown Advisors International, The Goldman Sachs Group, Globespan Virata, Don Lucas, NTT Leasing (a subsidiary of Nippon Telegraph and Telephone), RWI Group, and Telos Venture Partners. The startup will be looking for an additional $15 million in summer 2003, and expects that all of its existing investors will participate.
Having been around for seven years, iReady experienced the giddy heights of the Internet boom as well as that era's miserable aftermath. At its peak, iReady had 88 employees, which subsequently dwindled down to about 25. Now on the rebound, the startup is back up to about 60 employees.
Based on early work during its IP phase, iReady actually holds the fundamental patent on implementing TCP/IP in hardware. The company's architecture implements TCP/IP in logic, processing all the layers of the protocol in a pipelined fashion in real time. While processing full-duplex gigabit TCP/IP traffic typically requires something on the order of a 2-GHz processor, iReady claims it can do it with a solution clocked at only 20 MHz. This not only enables the technology to easily scale up to 10 Gbps, but it also generates significantly less heat.
Another nice feature of iReady's TCP/IP offload technology is that it is interoperable with all the existing various flavors of TCP/IP. TCP/IP is a 30-year-old standard with hundreds of different permutations, making interoperability a significant issue.
IReady's first iSCSI products are an integrated iSCSI controller and several iSCSI host bus adaptors (HBAs). The iReady ethernetMAX iSCSI controller integrates hardware iSCSI acceleration, full TCP/IP offload, full line-rate IPsec, and a GigabitMAC and GigabitPHY into a single chip. The startup's HBA product family consists of the IR-1011LC iSCSI Storage Adapter, the IR-1011C Secure Storage Adapter, and the IR-1011F Secure Storage Adapter for optical networks.
The company is currently sampling the chips, and expects general availability in Q3 2003. The ethernetMAX controller will sell for $75, the iSCSI storage adapter for $199, the secure storage adapter for $299, and the secure storage adapter for optical networks for $399.
iReady will be selling its chips and boards to customers building servers, storage boxes, and blade servers. Ultimately, iReady sees itself selling all the way down to Ethernet-based drives as the market for those kinds of devices develops.
iReady's management team also includes Mike Smith as CTO. Smith was previously a professor at the Univ. of Hawaii, where his latest research project involved implementation of Internet protocols in silicon. He began his career with IBM in the U.K., and then went on to work at the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center. Smith was one of the original members of the group that created Compass Design Automation as a spinoff from VLSI Technology.
Steve Bach, CFO and VP of finance and administration, joined iReady from e-commerce vendor Citadon. Previously, he held various finance positions at AMR and Frito-Lay.
Richard Bridgeman, VP of strategic sales, has developed and marketed technology-oriented products for Fortune 500 companies such as Rockwell International, General Motors, Hughes Electronics and Cadence Design Systems.