Nvidia nabs Cumulus Networks for networking software play

Fresh off of closing its $6.9 billion deal to buy Mellanox last week, Nvidia said on Monday that it's buying Cumulus Networks for an undisclosed sum. With Cumulus, Nvidia said it would be able to innovate across the entire networking stack from chips and systems to software, including analytics with Cumulus NetQ.

"Today we announce our plan to acquire Cumulus Networks, bolstering our networking software capabilities," said Amit Katz, a former Mellanox executive who is now vice president of Ethernet switch at Nvidia, in a blog. "The combination enables the new era of the accelerated, software-defined data center."

The ongoing shift to virtualized data centers will drive the software-defined data center market to $235 billion by 2026, according to a recent report. The software-defined data center (SDDC) market value currently sits at $40 billion, according to research by Global Market Insights.

Cumulus, which was founded 10 years ago by former Cisco and VMware execs, provides Linux-based network operating systems (NOS) to help cloud service providers and communications service providers make the move to disaggregated networks using white box switches and routers.

RELATED: Nvidia beats out rivals to buy Mellanox for $6.9B

With Mellanox, Katz said Nvidia is now able to optimize data center-scale workloads across the entire computing, networking and storage stack to increase performance levels while also lowering operating costs. Mountain View, Calif.-based Cumulus supports more than 100 hardware platforms with its Linux NOS for network switches.

Prior to the deal, Mellanox's Spectrum switches were already shipping with Cumulus Linux and SONiC. Software for Open Networking in the Cloud (SONiC) originated with Microsoft four years ago as a means to improve network switch operations. Microsoft subsequently contributed SONiC into the Open Compute Project (OCP) in 2016 to further its development and reach. 

Mellanox and Cumulus also previously worked together as part of the high-speed interconnect Open Ethernet strategy that was formed by Mellanox in 2013. Cumulus' Open Network Install Environment (ONIE) is being used with Mellanox's bare metal switches. Mellanox and Cumulus Networks also built DENT, which is a distributed Linux software framework for retail and other enterprises at the edge of the network.

“This is a very interesting acquisition," said Scott Raynovich, the founder and chief analyst of Futuriom, in an email Monday morning to FierceTelecom. "Cumulus has been having some success in certain large-scale deployments and Mellanox has shown strong growth as a switch vendor with secure NIC technology.

"The two of them were already partners, but putting all of this technology under the same roof at Nvidia is a powerful combination.” 

The deal is slated to close during the second quarter of Nivida's current 2021 fiscal year once it completes the customary closing conditions.

Disaggregated networking enables the deployment of commodity switches with an independent networking operating systems offering Layer 2 and Layer 3 intelligence. Hardware vendors include HPE, Accton, Celestica, Dell EMC, Edgecore, Foxconn, Lanner, and Quanta.

RELATED: HPE and Cumulus team up on open data center storage

In addition to Cumulus, suppliers of network operating systems include Arrcus, Big Switch Networks, Kaloom, 128 Technology, IP Infusion, NoviFlow, Pica8, Pluribus, Snaproute and a number of open source options such as SONiC, DANOS and FBOSS.