The Series E round was led by the China Integrated Circuit Industry Investment Fund (CICF), a national fund that specifically helps semiconductor companies. The funding is a substantial boost to 11-year-old Centec, which had raised only $28 million to date.
Centec is producing Ethernet switching chips, the devices at the heart of a switch. Vendors including Cisco and Juniper have tended to produce their own ASICs for their switches, but there’s a merchant market as well, and it’s been dominated by Broadcom in recent years.
Competitors are starting to gain steam, however. Last year, Centec claimed to have finally caught up to the Trident II, Broadcom’s franchise chip. Cavium, with the acquisition of the XPliant chip line, is going up against Broadcom’s newer, high-end offering, called Tomahawk. And a new competitor, Innovium, got off the ground after settling an early lawsuit filed by Broadcom.
All of these companies, including Broadcom, would be happy to sell to the likes of Cisco and Juniper (which have begun using some merchant Ethernet chips). But the bigger market, in terms of volume of customers, is with the ODMs that make more generic brands of switches.
Centec, in particular, wants to help fuel the white box market — switches that are sold without software installed, so that the customer has a choice of operating systems.