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

NVIDIA, a company known for developing advanced chips for artificial intelligence and high-speed gaming applications has is making a concerted effort to go after cloud-based data-center 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-center, 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 hyperscale data centers.

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/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 optimize across the entire networking stack from chips and systems to software including analytics, he stated.

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