Why Intel Acquired Barefoot Networks

By Amit Chowdhry • Jun 21, 2019
  • Intel recently acquired Barefoot Networks for an undisclosed amount. These are the details behind the deal.

Intel recently announced that it is acquiring Barefoot Networks, which is a company that raised more than $150 million from companies like Dell, Google, Goldman Sachs, and Alibaba. The terms of the deal were undisclosed.

Barefoot Networks is known for selling network equipment with processors that are driven by code written by developers. The Barefoot team will be joining Intel after the deal closes (likely in Q3 2019), including CEO Dr. Craig Barratt.

Intel’s acquisition of Barefoot Networks is especially important as the chip giant’s data center revenues slipped for the first time in many years. This acquisition will essentially support Intel’s end-to-end cloud networking services for data center customers.

And earlier this year, NVIDIA acquired Mellanox for $6.9 billion in cash — which is a company that pioneered InfiniBand interconnect technology — which is used by over half of the world’s fastest supercomputers and hyper scale data centers. This makes the data center networking space even more competitive.

Intel made similar moves in 2012 when it acquired the InfiniBand switch business from QLogic for $125 million. This business is the foundation of Intel’s Omni-Path series. And later that year, Intel acquired the Gemini XT and Aries XC interconnect technologies from Cray for $140 million.

And Intel also acquired Ethernet switch chip company Fulcrum Microsystems in July 2011. Fulcrum was founded by Uri Cummings and Andrew Lines in 1999. Cummings and Lines founded Fulcrum following research projects at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

“Barefoot Networks will add deep expertise in cloud network architectures, P4-programmable high-speed data paths, switch silicon development, P4 compilers, driver software, network telemetry, and computational networking. Most important, this is one of the most talented and experienced teams in this domain in the industry,” said Intel VP/GM Navin Shenoy in a statement.

Barefoot pointed out that a Tofino-powered switch is able to analyze network traffic as it moves through data centers. And developers can control what they are looking for. Companies like Cisco and Arista both reportedly use Barefoot’s Tofino chips for powering some of their products, according to Business Insider.

Barefoot Networks was founded by chief scientist and Stanford University professor Nick McKeown, CTO Patrick Bosshart and Chief Development Officer Dan Lenoski. McKeown also founded Nicira (a networking company acquired by VMware for $1.26 billion in 2012).

NextPlatform reported that the foundation of Barefoot launched in 2008 when McKeown was collaborating with Martin Izzard (now the lead of an undisclosed project called X, the moonshot factory) and Bosshart of Texas Instruments on programmable networking. And when Barefoot launched in 2011, McKeown had become chief scientist, Izzard was named CEO, and Bosshart became CTO.