Ethernet product maker SolarFlare received a strategic investment, which it will use to develop new products targeting new markets. The company enables adoption of 10Gigabit in data center and enterprise networks, with products across silicon, firmware and software.
The amount of funding was not disclosed, which sometimes means a company is self-conscious about size. Aren’t we all. SolarFlare basically helps heavy duty apps go faster and scale in a secure fashion.
The investment was led by Oak Investment Partners with participation from Xilinx (inventor of the first field-programmable gate array). Xilinx has been investing and partnering with key data center technologies with a goal shared by everyone in the data center industry: drive better performance per watt. It has made around 22 investments since its founding in 1985, according to Crunchbase.
The funding is indicative of a wider trend. Several companies up and down the stack are jockeying for their place in the next-gen data center. Hyperscale, distributed and heterogeneous computing environments means network bottlenecks and communication pain points. It’s necessitating evolution in the way communication occurs in the data center.
The company has received over $305M in funding since its founding in 2001. That seems like a massive amount, but it’s arguably par for the course for companies of this ilk. Developing silicon requires a ton of non-recurring engineering costs. Competing in the cutthroat world of NIC fabric services isn’t cheap.
SolarFlare History: the business of shaving nanoseconds
SolarFlare was early to market with 10GbE semiconductor products, positioning it well for increasingly dense and distributed computing environments of today. It’s flagship product line enables data center to data center transfers of 10-gigabits per second over Ethernet. 10GbE is replacing standard 1 gigabit per second solutions largely still in place today.
The company offers ASIC and FPGA-based solutions, meaning there’s really no way to avoid acronyms in this article. ASIC stands for Application-specific integrated circuit, i.e. customized for specific uses as opposed to general purpose.
The company established its ASIC-based server adapters business at the turn of the century. In 2012, it introduced FPGA-based solutions for electronic trading. Electronic trading is perhaps the most demanding segment when it comes to performance. In e-trading, milliseconds—even nanoseconds—can cost big bucks. SolarFlare recently partnered with NovaSparks to launch a full-FPGA tick-to-trade development platform, which promises a full trading cycle in less than 800ns.
It recently introduced standard NICs with SmartNIC-like packet processing power (here we go again: NIC stands for Network Interface Controller, though if you’re here, I imagine you know that.) SmartNIC is the terminology this sector is currently arguing to define. It’s basically a NIC that includes SDN and NFV (network function virtualization). Networking folks sure do love their acronyms.
Remember the Sega Genesis’ marketing campaign around “Blast Processing”? Someone like SolarFlare should bring it back if it isn’t trademarked. It’s catchier. I digress.