Nvidia Bolsters HPC Push With Mellanox Acquisition

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American chip firm digs deep with £5.3bn acquisition of Israeli high performance chipmaker

Nvidia is getting closer to its long-time partner in the high performance computing (HPC) market, with the acquisition Israeli chipmaker Mellanox.

Nvidia said it would acquire the firm for roughly $6.9bn or £5.3bn, in order to bolster its processing and interconnect credentials for the HPC sector.

It comes after Nvidia surprised the markets in January when it issued a profit warning, which it blamed on a slow gaming market in China and caution from data centre companies.

Mellanox acquisition

Nvidia of course is perhaps best known for its graphic processing units (GPUs), and historically its key market was the gaming sector, before it branched out into specialised AI chips for data centres and autonomous cars, as well as semiconductors for the production of cryptocurrencies.

But its cryptocurrency sales have been dented by slowdowns in most major virtual currencies, as well as tough market conditions in places such as China, which has affected its gaming business.

But this has not stopped the firm from eyeing out potential acquisitions to help drive growth.

“Together, Nvidia’s computing platform and Mellanox’s interconnects power over 250 of the world’s TOP500 supercomputers and have as customers every major cloud service provider and computer maker,” said the GPU maker.

Indeed, Mellanox actually pioneered the InfiniBand interconnect technology, which along with its high-speed Ethernet products, is now used in over half of the world’s fastest supercomputers and in many leading hyperscale data centres.

So the rationale behind the deal is that as modern workloads in AI, scientific computing and data analytics grows exponentially, CPU performance advances have slowed as Moore’s law has ended.

This means that the HPC sector is increasingly looking to other ways to bolster performance, hence Nvidia GPUs and Mellanox’s intelligent networking solutions.

“The emergence of AI and data science, as well as billions of simultaneous computer users, is fueling skyrocketing demand on the world’s data centres,” said Jensen Huang, founder and CEO of Nvidia. “Addressing this demand will require holistic architectures that connect vast numbers of fast computing nodes over intelligent networking fabrics to form a giant data centre-scale compute engine.”

“We share the same vision for accelerated computing as Nvidia,” said Eyal Waldman, founder and CEO of Mellanox. “Combining our two companies comes as a natural extension of our long-standing partnership and is a great fit given our common performance-driven cultures. This combination will foster the creation of powerful technology and fantastic opportunities for our people.”

Supercomputer partnership

Both Nvidia and Mellanox have contributed to building the world’s two fastest supercomputers, Sierra and Summit, operated by the US Department of Energy.

Late last year America once again regained the lead in the supercomputing arms race, and has pulled ahead of its arch rival, China.

Indeed, the Asian nation has now slipped into third position after the latest Top 500 supercomputer list placed two American machines in the top two positions.

Until now, China had dominated the rankings for many years as the nation sought to exploit the advantages that having the world’s most powerful computers can deliver.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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