Intel buys networking specialist Fulcrum

The purchase of the networking specialist will help Intel broaden its portfolio of datacentre-focused products, giving it a range of high-performance processors for switches

Intel has acquired networking equipment maker Fulcrum Microsystems, which designs fast chips for switches.

Chip die

Intel has acquired networking equipment maker Fulcrum Microsystems, which designs fast chips for switches. Image credit: Fulcrum Microsystems

The chipmaking giant said on Tuesday it has signed a definitive agreement to purchase the company, which is based in Calabasas, California. Financial terms were not disclosed.

"Fulcrum Microsystems's switch silicon, already recognised for high performance and low latency, complements Intel's leading processors and Ethernet controllers," Kirk Skaugen, general manager for Intel's datacentre group, said in a statement.

Fulcrum's flagship products are its FocalPoint switch chips, which use an application-specific integrated circuit (Asic) to offer 10GbE and 40GbE routing and switching. It targets its chips at service providers, carrier networks, datacentres and enterprises. Switching, bridging and routing applications can be written for FocalPoint chips via an Ansi C API.

Arista Networks uses Fulcrum's Asics for its high-performance 7100 switches which, according to tests, continue to beat Cisco's flagship Nexus range on latency.

Fulcrum was founded in 1999 by two ex-PhD students from the California Institute of Technology. The founders, Uri Cummings and Andrew Lines, are still with the company as chief technology officer and vice president of research and development respectively.

"This move expands Intel's footprint in the datacentre, one of the few areas of growth that fits with the company's current product offerings," Nathan Brookwood, a research fellow at semiconductor analyst firm Insight 64, told ZDNet UK. "Better switches will facilitate the sales of more Intel-based servers, and thus further enrich Intel."

Brookwood said that chips optimised for switching applications are "a relatively small market in terms of unit volumes".

"I suspect the motive is more to gain a complementary product line than to integrate Fulcrum's technology into future Intel processors," he said.

The acquisition is subject to the approval of regulators and Fulcrum's shareholders. It is expected to go through before the end of September.


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