Intel has acquired Barefoot Networks, a provider of Ethernet switch silicon and software for data centers -- including cloud services systems. The move strives to meet the needs of "hyperscale cloud customers," Intel asserts, and also has implications for 5G wireless network services. Pundits believe the Intel-Barefoot Networks deal counters technology from Broadcom.
Barefoot Networks, launched in 2016, combines the P4 programming language with fast programmable switches, the company says. Barefoot has also created an ecosystem for compilers, tools, and P4 programs for partners and customers. Key financial backers have included Google, Goldman Sachs, Alibaba, Tencent, Sequoia Capital, Lightspeed Venture Partners, and Andreessen Horowitz.
Intel Acquires Barefoot Networks: 5G Wireless Service Applications
In addition to its cloud data center focus, Barefoot's technology has use cases for 5G and service provider edge networks, according to demonstrations earlier this year at Mobile World Congress 2019. Barefoot demonstrations at the conference, featuring multiple technology and service provider partners, included:
- P4 Programmable, Multi-Platform, Multi-Vendor, Real-Time Visibility for Service Providers Networks
- Programmable, Real-time, High-performance Per-packet Telemetry and Analytics for Service Providers’ Data-Centers with Xilinx
- Kaloom’s Cloud Edge Fabric (CEF) Solutions Powered by Barefoot Networks’ Tofino, P4 Studio, P4-16 and P4 Insight, Bring Unprecedented Performance to 5G Services for the Cloud Edge
Intel Acquires Barefoot Networks: Executive Perspectives
In a blog about the deal, Navin Shenoy, executive VP and GM of Intel's Data Center Group, said only 2 percent of the data created in the past two years has been analyzed. Eager to eliminate that massive blind spot, Intel wants to help customers with new ways to rapidly move, store and process data, he added.
"Upon close, the addition of Barefoot Networks will support our focus on end-to-end cloud networking and infrastructure leadership, and will allow Intel to continue to deliver on new workloads, experiences and capabilities for our data center customers," Shenoy. He did not disclose the deal's value.
Intel Data Center, Cloud Scale Strategy
Although Intel remains solidly profitable, the company has faced challenges in the mobile, desktop, server, data center and cloud markets.
The company slightly beat Wall Street’s expectations for first quarter 2019 earnings on flat revenue of $16.1 billion, VentureBeat notes. While the company's PC-centric business grew 4 percent during the period, results were mixed within the company's data-centric business -- including such metrics as:
- Collectively, Intel's data-centric businesses declined 5 percent YoY in the first quarter.
- In the Data Center Group (DCG), the cloud segment grew 5 percent while the communications service provider segment declined 4 percent and enterprise and government revenue declined 21 percent.
- First-quarter Internet of Things Group (IOTG) revenue grew 8 percent YoY (19 percent excluding Wind River)
- Mobileye achieved record first-quarter revenue of $209 million, up 38 percent YoY.
- Intel's memory business (NSG) was down 12 percent YoY in a challenging pricing environment.
- Intel's Programmable Solutions Group (PSG) revenue was down 2 percent YoY in the first quarter.
Intel CEO Bob Swan struck a cautious tone in an April 25 earnings statement, saying:
"Results for the first quarter were slightly higher than our January expectations. We shipped a strong mix of high-performance products and continued spending discipline while ramping 10nm and managing a challenging NAND pricing environment. Looking ahead, we're taking a more cautious view of the year, although we expect market conditions to improve in the second half."
We'll be watching to see how Barefoot Networks contributes to Intel's overall business in the months ahead.