When network interface card specialist Emulex bought network visibility vendor Endace last week, some industry observers may have found the union an odd one. But the acquisition puts Emulex in a position to expand its business and expand into software-defined networking.
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Endace specializes in network recorders and visibility analytics, while Emulex makes network and storage adaptors for servers. At first glance, there is a big difference between those two businesses.
Yet both companies focus on hardware that processes very high-speed data flows.
"They're both very hardware-centric companies and the Endace guys are big silicon wranglers. So the talent piece makes sense and it brings [Emulex] a little closer to Taiwan, which is not a bad thing for Emulex," said Eric Hanselman, research director for London-based 451 Research.
So while Emulex Vice President of Marketing and Corporate Development Shaun Walsh admitted that the Endace technology deal falls beyond his company's addressable market, he frames the acquisition as part of a larger puzzle around software-defined networking (SDN) precisely because of this processing power.
Emulex's high-end network interface card (NICs) and converged network adapters have enough processing power to potentially operate as nodes on an SDN network.
"In our cards we can add drivers and I/O middleware to intelligently change the protocol the card is running," Walsh said. "At the endpoints you can use software to define the personality of our 10 gigabit [NICs]. That personality can talk to other members of the data center network architecture. We'll be able to leverage technology whether it be northbound APIs, OpenFlow, Juniper [Junos] or Cisco onePK."
Meanwhile, Endace's network recorders and analytics can feed data about the network into the SDN control plane, which in turn can define the behavior of Emulex's NICs.
Rolling Endace into an SDN play seems like a stretch right now, according to 451 Research's Hanselman, especially in these early days of the SDN market. Yet Emulex's SDN aspirations with its NICs have merit, he said. Tunneling protocols like VXLAN that some SDN solutions are using will benefit from the technology Emulex is developing.
"Computationally [VXLAN tunnel termination] is a big load [on the server CPU]," Hanselman said. "Stuff is coming out that will allow Emulex [NICs] to help with tunnel termination offload."
Ultimately, the Endace acquisition gives Emulex an opportunity to get into a ″dynamic and growing market segment where they can pull away from their traditional competition by adding more technology,” said Jim Frey, research director for Enterprise Management Associates.
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