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Acquisition nets net-chip vendor modules, Linux expertise

Mar 30, 2005 — by Henry Kingman — from the LinuxDevices Archive — views

Device networking specialist Digi International, of Minnetonka, Minn., has acquired a pair of European sister companies, FS Forth-Systeme, of Germany, and Sistemas Embebidos, of Spain. The $4.4M deal brings Digi in-house Linux expertise, and expands its line of modules based on high-integration, system-on-chip (SoC) processors from NetSilicon, another Digi-owned company.

The deal consolidates Digi's investment in venerable networking chip and RTOS (real-time operating system) vendor NetSilicon, which was founded in 1983 and acquired by Digi for $15M in May of 2002. Both FS Forth and Sistemas Embebidas market embedded networking modules and development boards based on NetSilicon's 32-bit Net+ARM-architecture SoCs.

FS Forth/Sistemas Embebidas has also ported Linux to several NetSilicon chips, including the NS7520 and Net+50. NetSilicon's recently announced NS9360, a low-cost 200MHz ARM9 networking chip, is supported under Linux by “third party partners,” the company said in the Fall of 2004 — almost certainly referring to FS Forth/Sistemas Embebidas.

Additionally, both FS Forth and Sistemas Embebidas have software products based on NetSilicon's proprietary Net+O/S RTOS, and both companies have experience supporting its Net+Works development tools, Digi says.

The deal may show a resurgence of interest in Linux at NetSilicon, which stopped generating Linux news about the time it was acquired by Digi. Prior to that, NetSilicon had partnered with both Red Hat and Lineo on Net+uClinux and other Linux support for its SoCs, and had even launched its own brand of embedded Linux, NET+Lx, in February 2000.

The acquisition includes a purchase price of $4.4 million, with any additional payments contingent on future milestones. FS Forth and Sistemas Embebidos are privately held companies, and formerly a part of Embedded Solutions AG of Germany. Both will operate as separate legal entities, Digi says, but will be included in Digi's financial statements. Digi believes the deal with be “accretive to earnings in fiscal year 2005.”

Digi CEO Joe Dunsmore said, “We now have the ability to target the Linux, Windows CE, and VxWorks centric applications, in addition to NET+O/S.”

Dunsmore adds, “This acquisition enables Digi to address the networked core module business opportunity much more aggressively. Digi customers will have the unique ability to migrate seamlessly from core module to chip, protecting their R&D investment.”

NetSilicon's Net+ARM chips and modules are also supported under Linux by several other companies, including Kleinhenz Elektronics, which offers the uClinux-based Picotux, a tiny system based on Digi's RJ-45-sized Connect ME module (pictured).

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