Xilinx buys Solarflare

FPGA-maker Xilinx is buying Solarflare Communications and its accelerated network interface technology for an undisclosed price.

Solarflare began life in 2001, and has taken in more than $305m in funding i at least 14 rounds. The latest was in June last year, led by Oak Investment Partners and with a contribution from Xilinx.

The company develops accelerated network interface cards (NICs), built with FPGAs and ASICs, and application acceleration software. They are used by nearly every major global exchange, commercial bank and hedge fund.

The latest XtremeScale NICs support NVMe-over-TCP and use kernel bypass technolgy to achieve low latency.  Lightbits Labs and Solarflare have pioneered the NVMe/TCP market which provides NVMe transport across standard Ethernet instead of the more expensive lossless, data centre-class Ethernet needed for the slightly faster NVMe-oF using RcCE.

FPGA tour

Xilinx, founded in 1984, is a fabless business that designs FPGAs, such as its Virtex and Versal product families,  and CPLDs (complex programmable logic devices). It is publicly owned, capitalised at $30.11bn, and, with Intel, dominates the FPGA market.

Xylinx ZYNQ MPsoc used in ZF’s AI-based automotive control unit

As well as investing in Solarflare, Xilinx has built a single-chip, FPGA-based, 100Gbit/s SmartNIC with Solarflare that can process 100 million receive and transmit packets per-second, using less than 75 watts.

Xilinx wants to combine its technology with Solarflare’s high-speed NIC tech and application acceleration software, to develop a converged SmartNIC platform for data centre use. This chimes with its intention to move beyond flogging FPGAs to build a so-called platform company with its products supporting an applications ecosystem.

Salil Raje, EVP and GM for Xilinx’s data centre group, said: “Solarflare has been a pioneer in key areas such as high-speed Ethernet, application acceleration, and NVMe-over-fabrics, which are the critical components needed to build the next generation of SmartNICs for cloud and enterprise technologies.”

The acquisition is expected to close in six months’ time, subject to regulatory review and customary closing conditions.

Xilinx was reportedly interested in buying Ethernet and InfiniBand networker Mellanox. That company went to Nvidia in March 2019 for $6.9bn.