Last year's buzz was about Ipsilon and its flow-labeling technology. This season the gossip is about Sunnyvale-based Yago Systems Inc. and about Ipsilon struggling to meet payroll.

But Yago appears to be made of humbler, more durable stuff than the standard hot Valley start-up. From the self-effacing name (Yago originally stood for "yet another gigabit operation") to the low-rent some would say decrepit offices, Yago is, in the words of CEO Piyush Patel, "a down-to-earth engineering company." What Yago employees are trying to do, however, isn't.

The past two years have seen a major shift in how network routers are designed: more of the intelligence has been put into hardware instead of software. This kind of hardwiring allows for faster speeds, but at the expense of flexibility.

Now Yago claims to have achieved both with a custom chip of its own design.

All routers look at the header of a packet, determine its ultimate destination, and send it on its way. Because this has to be done very quickly that's about all most routers are able to do. Yago's box, however, is able to do much more in the split fraction of a second it has to examine a packet. For example, it might see a packet that contains email data from a known spammer and block it.

How does Yago do it? "We didn't hire networking engineers, we hired microprocessor designers," says Andrew Feldman, Yago's director of business development. "For these guys, achieving gigabit speeds was the easiest thing they've ever had to do." Yago's first products will ship early next year.

(c) Wired News