News hot off the wire is that Rivet Networks, the company behind the Killer range of accelerated networking products and analysis tools, is being acquired by Intel. The two companies have been working very closely of late, using a unified silicon strategy for the latest gigabit Ethernet networking silicon and also Wi-Fi 6 add-in cards and CNVi CRF modules for laptops. This new acquisition for Intel will enable an element of Ethernet traffic monitoring and optimization the portfolio has not had before, but it will be interesting to see how Intel hands the acquisition compared to when Qualcomm Atheros acquired Rivet Networks some years ago.

A lot of technology savvy users that have been around a while know about the Killer brand of networking products. The company originally burst onto the scene with an FPGA and a big heavy K heatsink looking to offer lower PC-to-Internet latencies, especially in games. Over time that FPGA became its own ASIC and gigabit Ethernet controller, and the company moved more into the ability to transparently detect and shape networking traffic, allowing high-priority traffic to pass through with the lowest latency, but downloads and streaming to get the lowest latency. Users were able to configure their network, as well as direct traffic through different networking interfaces if two Killer products were supported.


The original Bigfoot Killer NIC in 2006

The company originally started as Bigfoot Networks, and came to market with the Killer NIC in 2006. Qualcomm’s Atheros division, focused on networking, acquired the company in September 2011. The acquisition with Qualcomm gave a lot of access to Qualcomm’s ASIC building capabilities, bringing the power of the NIC down from an FPGA but also increasing the capability of the hardware and software. However, after several years of no product development or generational iterations, the original founders and engineers of the company spun back out of Qualcomm to form Rivet Networks, in an effort to build the Killer branding once again. Originally working with Qualcomm’s Atheros silicon, Rivet Networks started partnering with Intel and Realtek on various parts offering a standard version under the normal brand or the Killer version with additional network detection and shaping capabilities. This led to a resurgence in the capabilities of the hardware, with Dell, MSI, GIGABYTE, ASRock, and other OEMs becoming customers.

The Rivet Networks Killer AX1650, already built on Intel AX200 Silicon

When we saw a Killer NIC in the Dell XPS, the company had truly made it. Dell’s business machines also got access to SmartByte, a special app detection algorithm for Dell end-users and business customers. Rivet Networks have also developed a number of technologies to its portfolio, including supporting switch-like mechanics for multi-controller systems, or Wi-Fi extension services through time-muxing the Wi-Fi modem.

All these technologies will now fall under the Intel umbrella. The Rivet Networks team will join Intel’s Wireless Solutions Group within the Client Computing Group. Given that the two groups have been working very closely with the AX201 and Killer AX1650 networking chips recently, which underneath both use Intel silicon, it will be interesting to see where it all goes from here. I know of a number of plans that the Rivet team were working towards, some of them would be very beneficial to the consumer market, so I hope that Intel keeps the same passion alive.

 

This news is still breaking, we will update as we get more information

 

I had an on-the-record call with the Rivet Networks team and Intel, with lots of interesting information. While the value of the acquisition is not being disclosed, talks started in earnest at the end of last year about the right time and the level of synergy between the two companies. There is no mention of personnel, however every person that Intel offered a position too at Rivet took that offer. Rivet's CEO Mike Cubbage will now be Intel's Senior Director of Connectivity Innovations.

Intel is set to keep the Killer brand and integrate it into its portfolio of products. I asked if there were any particular brands that Intel was keen on or not keen on - Intel's Eric McLaughlin, VP and GM of the Wireless Group stated that Intel is interested in all of them, especially in how they've been deployed so far and how Intel can scale them in more places and different ways.

I did ask a question about the integration, given how when Rivet/Bigfoot Networks was acquired by Qualcomm and then had to spin out again in order to drive the product, I was worried Intel might do the same. Mike told me that Rivet's Killer brand strengths back then, and even today, are in the PC and Gaming space, which perfectly aligns with what Intel is focused on. This is different to the previous acquisition, where is was more of a business portfolio play, but this time around Intel looks set on developing the Killer technology into a wide variety of products at scale, something which Rivet wasn't able to do previously.

 

Source: Intel

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  • blppt - Wednesday, May 20, 2020 - link

    Most of the time mid-to-top end AMD motherboard have Intel NICs anyways---i'm not sure why 'taking killer off the table' for AMD really hurts them that much. Reply
  • ExarKun333 - Wednesday, May 20, 2020 - link

    Also, potentially more IP that helps Intel with wireless modems. Reply
  • Ian Cutress - Wednesday, May 20, 2020 - link

    The Killer AX1650 is already built on Intel silicon since April 2019 Reply
  • Reflex - Wednesday, May 20, 2020 - link

    Yup, and they perform the best with the generic Intel driver. Reply
  • PeachNCream - Thursday, May 21, 2020 - link

    That's really the only good thing about Killer NICs after they started rebranding Intel products. If you were stuck with Killer hardware before they put a different sticker on an Intel card, you had no route short of replacing the adapter to get a reliable network connection. At least now you're not stuck with Rivet Networks' pretty pointless software.

    I do wonder what Intel is going to do with the company. The Killer branding has always been rather childish and the marketing attempts don't work on a buyer with rudimentary networking knowledge. Then again, Intel did sell that Skull Trail NUC so they aren't beyond appealing to that tween man-child gamer segment living in mommy's basement.
    Reply
  • FXi - Thursday, May 21, 2020 - link

    I just want the ability to go completely generic Intel for drivers until it is proven that Killer software offers something of value to network conscious users. Intel networking hardware is already pretty fast, up to date on standards, and well supported/updated in software. In a networking world, that's a pretty useful combination right there. I've been sizeably unhappy with all the machines migrating to Killer products, save for those that I could return to an Intel software stack.
    So at least now I hope we can keep networking bulletproof and up to date. If there are some hard or soft improvements I don't mind if they are gently included, but no more do I want to find out that some software glitch in the supposedly "advanced" Killer stack takes 6-9 months to get corrected. I've kicked whole devices out of vendor selections just because they only offered Killer products. So Intel's "integration" had better not compromise the products they have. Probably we'll see when we get to Wifi 6e, coming soon.
    Reply
  • azfacea - Wednesday, May 20, 2020 - link

    how in seven hell is this getting approved ??? its like AWS shamelessly buying IBM cloud or digital ocean. like WTF ??

    As if the situation in Ethernet controllers wasnt bad enough already ?? gigabit ethernet from 90s remaining da standard today ?? intel is not satisfied with its own "hide the controller" performance now it wants to use its money to remove any chance of someone else competing in this market. NICE
    Reply
  • 0mnibuss - Wednesday, May 20, 2020 - link

    Pretty much... But I'm all for sticking it to Qualcomm in IP, just need more wired AND wireless solutions to make the market better. Because right now, its been really stagnant. Reply
  • Makaveli - Wednesday, May 20, 2020 - link

    I haven't looked at any of Killers stuff in a long while.

    Is the goal rule to still stick with Intel nic's when possible?
    Reply
  • Reflex - Wednesday, May 20, 2020 - link

    Yes. Killer is based off of Intel so you can force the Intel driver to install and it will work. But whenever possible you are better off just getting the Intel NIC. Reply

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