It’s a noteworthy win for Mellanox and a further sign that competition is heating up for Broadcom’s off-the-shelf Ethernet chips.
Baidu has agreed to use Mellanox’s Spectrum Ethernet switches and ConnextX-4 100-Gb/s Ethernet adapters. Mellanox won’t be doing machine learning; rather, its gear is being used for the high-speed infrastructure supporting Baidu’s machine learning platforms.
Spectrum switches use a Mellanox switching chip of the same name, and that’s where Broadcom comes in. High-end, off-the-shelf switches for the data center tend to use Broadcom chips; Broadcom’s Trident dominated the market in recent years, and the company now offers Tomahawk to target 25-, 50-, and 100-Gb/s Ethernet.
Broadcom’s dominance in switch chips is being contested by the likes of Cavium, whose XPliant chip is finding its way into switches offered by Arista and Brocade. (Mellanox has not publicly announced any deals with systems vendors.)
Startups are emerging in this field too, something that hasn’t happened for years. Barefoot Networks targets software-defined networking based on the P4 language. Startup Innovium is working on a chip as well, after settling an early lawsuit by Broadcom.