Force 10, waiting for that IPO?

Force 10 Networks, a maker of 10GB Ethernet switches has raised another $60 million, to bring its Series F funding to a whopping $113 million. The company has so far raised a gargantuan $400 million in private investments thus far.

The current round indicates that the much-expected public offering is not going to happen, at least in the near term. But don’t rule out an offering in the third quarter of 2007. “Unless they have aspirations of doing a small M&A deal, south of $100 million, the only other explanation is that the S-1 is further out than we thought,” Joe Chiasson, telecom analyst Susquehanna Financial Group told Byte & Switch.

Force 10’s latest round of funding is also consistent with growing concern on Wall Street that the IPO market is too hot and valuations are getting too rich. These might be short lived concerns. Ted Tobiason, managing director with Deutsche Bank in a recent analysis of the IPO markets notes that, “After a long hiatus there are acute bottlenecks in the data center and the communications infrastructure driving companies and communications providers to invest once again in their networks, storage and software.”

Force 10 certainly fits the bill. It is one of the primary beneficiaries of the free spending ways of Google, though company doesn’t really confirm or deny that the search giant is a customer. Gary Morgenthaler, general partner with Morgenthaler Ventures, one of the backers of the company had told me back in summer of 2006 that Google was an early customer. “It put the company on the path to the big time,” he had commented for my Business 2.0 story, Silicon Valley’s Big Pay Day.

Our sources within the data center industry say that Force 10 is getting traction in that business, especially as the data centers go through upgrades in the near term. Force 10 has been been a force in the high performance computing space and is being used by organizations such as CERN, NASA and Penn State.