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Jan 31 2019

Rumor: Intel to Acquire Mellanox?

Israeli business daily "Globes" reports that the world's largest chipmaker has developed a keen interest in the networking outfit Mellanox and bid US-$5.5–5.6 billion (€4.8–4.9 billion) to snap up the company. So far, neither firm has commented on the report.

According to its self-portrait on the company website, "Mellanox Technologies is a leading supplier of end-to-end Ethernet and InfiniBand intelligent interconnect solutions and services for servers, storage, and hyper-converged infrastructure." Its customer list includes other ICT heavyweights – among them HPE, IBM and Oracle – as well as various household names from other industries, such as Chevron (energy), Comcast (telecom), and Airbus (aerospace/defense). Mellanox has headquarters in Yokneam Illit near Haifa and Sunnyvale (California), its claim to fame is that its solutions provide unrivaled throughput and extremely low latencies, thereby increasing data center efficiency.

The Globes article doesn't exactly come as a surprise: In late October 2018, CNBC's Alex Sherman reported the company had hired an investment bank to help it navigate a potential takeover after receiving offers from at least two companies. Back then, rumor had it the bidders were chip designer and FPGA inventor Xilinx and Microsoft. Against that backdrop, the idea of Intel joining the competition doesn't sound entirely unlikely, even more so since the chipmaker reportedly has plans to open up a third fab at its facility in Kiryat Gat.

Regardless of possible strategic considerations, such an investment would also make sense from a sheer technical perspective: Intel's own broad portfolio of networking products – consisting of Ethernet gear, optical transceivers and the high-end Omni-Path adapters, switches, modules and cables – could fit nicely with the Mellanox offerings, all the more so since Omni-Path and InfiniBand are often considered to be technical twins because Intel's solution essentially builds on InfiniBand technology it acquired from QLogic in 2012. In other words, an acquisition could help Intel complete its portfolio and further increase its standing in the data center market.

For more details and background information, please refer to Chris Mellor's reports for The Register here and here, which include a segment about Mellanox's latest earnings report. For a more general overview of the InfiniBand market (with a special focus on HPC), see Timothy P. Morgan's piece "Battle of the InfiniBands" over at The Next Platform.


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