In July Marvell Semiconductor purchased Cavium for about $6 billion, bringing together two major players in infrastructure silicon.
Raj Singh, SVP and general manager of the infrastructure processor business unit at Marvell, said that both companies were focused on infrastructure and yet there was very little overlap, making it a pretty sweet merger.
For instance, Marvell and Cavium both had data center storage products. But Singh said Cavium’s play was on the processor and server and storage connectivity side, while Marvell specializes in switch and PHY transceivers as well as storage solutions such as solid-state device (SSD) controllers.
For server processors, Cavium brings its ThunderX to Marvell.
Switching was the only area where there was some significant overlap. Cavium brought its Xpliant programmable switch chip. But Marvell already had its Prestera line of switching chips that’s been around for more than 18 years.
Marvell quickly made the decision to nix the Xpliant chip. “We had to make decisions,” said Eric Hayes, SVP and general manager of networking at Marvell. “We decided to focus all our efforts on Prestera moving forward.”
Hayes said that companies that have real purchasing power such as Amazon and Google are not interested in programmability at the switch. One of the main benefits of programmability is that networking functions can be moved off of servers and onto the switch itself. This frees up space on the server for money-making functions. But Hayes said the hyperscale players are moving these functions onto network interface cards (NICs) to run SDN applications. He cited Marvell’s LiquidIO line of smart NICs.
Marvell’s largest business unit is its storage business. The company has more than 20 years of investment in storage technology and is a market leader in both hard disk drive (HDD), SSD, and fibre channel solutions.
Also in August Marvell announced an NVMe over Fabric (NVMe-oF) SSD converter controller for cloud and enterprise data centers. The controller is designed to increase utilization and scalability of SSDs within the data center, supporting true disaggregation of storage from compute.
In the radio access network (RAN) Cavium brings to Marvell its Octeon Fusion-M processors. And Cavium was active in the Open Networking Foundation’s (ONF’s) Central Office Re-architected as a Data Center (CORD) project, particularly the Mobile-CORD (M-CORD) project.
“We have in the past announced LTE baseband silicon,” said Singh. “We have also participated with M-CORD, which is splitting the RAN to allow 5G topologies. We believe the move to 5G isn’t just about getting faster service. It opens up a bunch of opportunities from the RAN to the core.”
Cavium was also involved with the Telecom Infra Project (TIP). It collaborated to bring a production version of the TIP LTE Base station, featuring an Octeon Fusion-M baseband processor and Cavium’s TIP-contributed LTE stack software.
Earlier this year, Cavium announced support for the EdgeX Foundry project hosted by the Linux Foundation. EdgeX Foundry is an open source project building a framework to facilitate an ecosystem for IoT edge computing. Cavium is supporting EdgeX Foundry on its Octeon TX family of chips.
“As you get IoT sensors and aggregate those into residential areas, we make processors that take that data and encrypt it and take it to the next stage,” said Singh. “At each stage you want to be able to encrypt. We have a series of processors that allow detection and encryption at the edge of the network so even if the sensor itself doesn’t have encryption, we have created products where at the edge we can detect.”