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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  • FXi - Thursday, May 21, 2020 - link

    Also agree moving to 2.5 is going to be plenty good until you need backbone worthy capacity. But that happens much more upstream and by that point you're less impacted by power consumption. Power will always be some issue because it costs to buy and to cool the resulting heat, but you are at a different level when you are choosing the value of 10G there. Reply
  • Beaver M. - Sunday, May 24, 2020 - link

    It didnt take off because theres not much hardware for it, much less affordable.
    2.5GBit are a joke and obsolete already.
    If they had such issues with 10Gbit, then at least 5GBit would have made some sense. But 2.5 is just nonsense.
    I will have a practical 283MB/s instead of 113. Wow. Woohoo...
    Are are doing the same mistake as SATA did. And then people found other ways and they were established in a heartbeat.
    They are doing the same mistake here.
    Reply
  • Daeros - Monday, June 1, 2020 - link

    2.5Gbps and 5Gbps Ethernet weren't developed for home networking - that's just a trickle-down effect. They were developed as a solution for enterprise networking, where 10G-baseT didn't have PoE capabilities and WiFi APs were saturating their 1Gbps connections. WiFi AC came out, and it was suddenly easy to swamp the backhaul. 2.5/5 answer this by being designed to work on existing 5e cabling and supporting PoE in a power envelope that enables 1u, 48-port switches. The fact that you get 2-5x more bandwidth in your home network is just another way to monetize the IP. Reply
  • brucethemoose - Thursday, May 21, 2020 - link

    Uh, Killer used other NICs anyway. There are quite a few Ethernet NIC manufacturers, and *a ton* of vendors... Reply
  • brucethemoose - Thursday, May 21, 2020 - link

    *point being it is kinda like AWS. Theres plenty of NIC competition, just not enough name recognition or marketing power among the competition. Reply
  • sorten - Wednesday, May 20, 2020 - link

    I assume the first thing they'll do is kill the Killer brand, given its reputation. Seems like a weird acquisition, but they would have had a deep engineering review during due diligence, so there must be something that Intel wants. Reply
  • CheapSushi - Wednesday, May 20, 2020 - link

    A bit sad since there's nothing actually wrong with the brand. It just perpetuates because gamers and others tend to complain constantly about kibda-sorta-mayve aspects. The "unique" thing for them after acquired by Qualcomm is just the continuation of the router like software stack. Most don't use it, this complain, because they already have some other crappy router at worst. Some had driver issues a long time ago and it just never got let go by the hardware community. People prefer generic "it works". Yet they eat up 99999 iterations of a CPU or GPU. Reply
  • PeachNCream - Thursday, May 21, 2020 - link

    The brand has a reputation for selling features or capabilities that do not actually benefit the end user. Giving certain traffic leaving the NIC priority only works as long as all the other hops on the route those packets take are also aware of that priority and respond accordingly as well. Since the vast majority of home networking hardware does not care and is not aware of Killer's software, the benefits proposed apply between the computer's network adapter and the very first hop (your home router) where that priority is moot. The ISPs, the backbone links of the world, and the distant end nodes will treat the traffic in an agnostic manner among all other similar traffic.

    No software bundle on an individual PC will alter how the global data infrastructure treats that traffic. That's why, despite Ian frequently touting the benefits of Rivet Networks' Killer software, he has literally NEVER provided measurable benchmark data that justifies his positive leaning bias toward the brand. I recall he once mumble-cowered away from that very thing by saying how it was difficult to create a benchmark that showed a difference via comments. It's all be a little disturbing to watch since I generally respect Ian's other work. However, when it comes to Killer products, he has not shown he is an unbiased journalist, but I've yet to tease out the exact reason why this is the case.

    Anyway, adding another software layer in the network data processing stack that simply cannot overcome the way data travels beyond the local PC's network adapter is pretty pointless. At best it can cause no harm beyond eating a few unnecessary CPU cycles and a throwing away a little RAM. At worst, it could cause problems that any other piece of software can introduce via unpatched security holes, sloppy programming, and compatibility problems with programs that expect different network data handling.

    So the brand itself has inherent problems associated with selling users on benefits that don't exist, cannot be delivered as promised, and are potentially problematic.
    Reply
  • Daeros - Monday, June 1, 2020 - link

    TBF, the benefits were real 10+ years ago. Also, Ian has some serious biases that come through in a variety of ways, and has for years. Reply
  • Makaveli - Thursday, May 21, 2020 - link

    I think its just the software stack an not necessarily hardware but that is just a guess on my part. Reply

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