LVL7, which is hoping to close on at least $15 million in venture capital in the near future, is betting that it’s on the fast path to success in partnership with two of the bigger Linux companies around.

The Cary-based company announced Tuesday an agreement with Red Hat and MontaVista Software to distribute its Linux-based Fastpath software, which LVL7 says establishes a universal protocol for embedded networking equipment.

In other words, more devices running the rapidly growing and versatile Linux can communicate with each other.

Products that use embedded operating systems include everything from cash machines and anti-lock brakes to DVD players and handheld wireless devices. LVL7 executives are betting that the Linux version of Fastpath will look attractive to networking equipment manufacturers who are looking to trim costs in the wake of the telecom crash.

“Previously, networking equipment manufacturers have had to shop around for companies selling (Linux-based) products that are compatible with one another,” says Kishore Jotwani, vice president of marketing for LVL7. “Our software provides them with a single solution.”

So far, Oregon-based RadiSys, a networking equipment manufacturer, is the only customer of the new Linux version of Fastpath. Arif Kareem, senior vice president of RadiSys, says the open-source nature of LVL7’s software is a standard much of the industry has been requesting.

“The open environment provides us and our customers with an opportunity to get our products to market much faster, with more capability and with more support than we would have otherwise,” Kareem says.

Jotwani says LVL7 already has started shipping the Linux-based Fastpath to equipment vendors that primarily are focused on companies providing high-speed Internet access and wireless services, as well as networking equipment companies that build switches and routers — the hardware used to direct data and voice traffic over a network.

A watershed moment?

Observers have long argued that the heart of the Linux operating system, known as the kernel, will split into two distinct versions — one that is used in servers and the other in embedded systems. Earlier this year MontaVista founder and CEO Jim Ready was quoted by CNET as saying that there is no discernable reason why the Linux kernel would ever split.

LVL7, however, is betting Ready’s prediction is wrong.

“When we talk about the wave of the future I think that in the server market growth will be plentiful,” Jotwani says. “Then you have the embedded market where growth is primarily focused on appliances, but I think some of these companies may begin considering getting into the networking equipment market now that there is a standard software solution available.”

An interesting side note to LVL7’s announcement is that the company is working with two Linux rivals. Red Hat and MontaVista have competed for the largest share of the embedded server market. At one point MontaVista changed the name of its flagship product, Hard Hat Linux, because it too closely resembled Red Hat Linux.

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