Deal will enable networking giant to add FPGA-powered gear to portfolio
Cisco Systems, fresh off announcing that it’s developing its own networking chip architecture, is buying Exablaze, an Australian company that develops low-latency network hardware that leverages programmable processors from the likes of Xilinx.
The Lowdown: After the acquisition closes next year, Cisco will integrate Exablaze’s technology into its Intent-Based Networking initiative and Nexus switches, giving customers and partners access to networking gear powered by field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), which are accelerators that can be programmed through software and are being embraced in cloud and web-scale environments.
The Details: Capacity, speed, and low latency in networking are becoming increasingly important at a time when massive amounts of data are being generated and the IT environment is becoming more distributed in a highly mobile world that includes the cloud and edge. Modern workloads like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, high-performance computing (HPC) in enterprises, Big Data analytics, 5G, and augmented and virtual reality also are putting pressure on networks to be faster.
Exablaze builds network devices for workloads in Big Data analytics, HPC, telecommunications, and data centers, and key to the systems is the use of FPGAs, which can be quickly adapted to new workloads through programming rather than having to be switched out for new chips. The ability to sell FPGA-based networking gear will enable Cisco to grow its portfolio of offerings.
No financial details for the deal, which was announced Tuesday, were released. Cisco expects to close the deal in the first half of 2020.
The Impact: Cisco is pushing to build the next generation of networking that will be needed to run the advanced workloads that will be commonplace in the coming years. At an event earlier this month, the company unveiled not only new networking hardware but also what it calls Cisco Silicon One, an architecture that can run anywhere on the network and will be able to support speeds of up to 25 Tbps.
Background: Partners will benefit from Cisco’s continuing push to expand its portfolio with such additions as new offerings running a broader range of silicon, which will help them run a wider array of modern workloads. The vendor over the past several years has been transforming itself from one that sells hardware to more of a software and service provider that’s increasingly reliant on recurring revenue. That also has meant a greater reliance on the channel, which now accounts for north of 85% of Cisco sales.
The Buzz: “In the case of the high-frequency trading sector, every sliver of time matters,” Rob Salvagno, vice president of corporate development and Cisco investments, wrote in a blog post. “By adding Exablaze’s segment-leading ultra-low latency devices and FPGA-based applications to our portfolio, financial and HFT customers will be better positioned to achieve their business objectives and deliver on their customer value proposition. Cisco is committed to delivering best-of-breed platforms as the foundation of our Intent-Based Networking strategy. Together, Cisco and Exablaze will accelerate next-generation low-latency solutions for Intent-Based Networks.”
“The acquisition will bring together Cisco’s global reach, extensive sales and support teams, and broad technology and manufacturing base with Exablaze’s cutting-edge low-latency networking, Layer 1 switching, timing and time synchronization technologies, and low-latency FPGA expertise,” wrote Greg Robinson, Exablaze co-founder and chairman, in a blog post. “Once the transaction is finalized, our goal will be to optimally combine the strengths of both organizations. Together with Cisco, we will be investing a great deal of thought and deliberation into how we go about the merger process, keeping in mind the close business relationships that we’ve grown over the years, as well as the unique attributes of our agile and fast-moving industry.”