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Nvidia, after $7B Mellanox hardware deal, grabs Cumulus for big network software play

Nvidia, after $7B Mellanox hardware deal, grabs Cumulus for big network software play

Acquisition targets large data centre, cloud and enterprise environments

Credit: Dreamstime

Nvidia, a company known for developing advanced chips for artificial intelligence (AI) and high-speed gaming applications, is making a concerted effort to go after cloud-based data centre customers by acquiring Cumulus Networks for an undisclosed amount.

Cumulus offers a Linux-based network operating system aimed at white box network gear users that supports large data centre, cloud and enterprise environments. Its Cumulus Linux offering supports over 130 different types of networking hardware.

Perhaps its main hardware partner, however, is enterprise and cloud-network switch and adapter vendor Mellanox, which Nvidia bought April 27 in a $7 billion deal.

Mellanox and Nvidia have developed open networking software together since 2013. Mellanox products are deployed in many of the world’s fastest supercomputers and largest hyper-scale data centres. Nvidia Mellanox Spectrum switches already ship with Cumulus Linux and SONiC, the open-source offering for Microsoft’s Azure cloud and managed by the Open Compute Project.

“With Mellanox, the new Nvidia has end-to-end technologies from AI computing to networking, full-stack offerings from processors to software, and significant scale to advance next-generation data centers,” said  Jensen Huang, founder and CEO of Nvidia at the close of that acquisition.

The Nvidia and Cumulus combination expands that plan and enables the new era of the accelerated, software-defined data center, said Amit Katz, a vice president of Ethernet Switch at Nvidia (who until last week had the same title at Mellanox) in a blog about the acquisition.

With Cumulus, Nvidia can innovate and optimise across the entire networking stack from chips and systems to software including analytics, he stated.

The result of both acquisitions is a stronger Nvidia data centre hardware and software portfolio – its data centre group made close to $1 billion in revenue in the last quarter and is growing at better than a 50 per cent clip year-over-year – that would bring it further into the enterprise-network and cloud-computing contest with the likes of Arista, Cisco, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Dell EMC, VMware and others, many of which are also its allies.

Nvidia, Mellanox and Cumulus also have a big presence in some huge hyper-scaler and big white-box customers, environments including Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Alibaba, and Oracle.

Others see the Nvidia Cumulus buy as a further shrinking of open networking software options. For example, Arista recently bought open software-defined networking and cloud-software vendor Big Switch Networks for an undisclosed amount.

"These recent acquisitions are evidence that the great disruption that was predicted around software defined and open networking a decade ago is happening right now," said Kumar Srikantan, CEO of Pluribus Networks in a statement. "At that time, the companies that were most competitive in creating a viable open networking ecosystem were Cumulus, Big Switch and Pluribus Networks.

"With Big Switch and Cumulus being acquired by vertically-integrated system providers, Pluribus Networks is well-positioned to both remain independent and scale into a disruptive force as the market moves well beyond the original hyper-scaler segment to achieve increasingly broad adoption in service provider and enterprise private cloud deployments."

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Tags NetworkingsoftwarenvidiaMellanoxCumulus Networks

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