With an Eye on Intelligent Next-Gen Data Centers, NVIDIA Acquires Mellanox for $7 Billion

April 28, 2020 by Gary Elinoff

The powerful combination augments NVIDIA's computing expertise with Mellanox’s networking know-how.

In a $7 billion deal, NVIDIA has completed its acquisition of Mellanox. The move, initially announced last month, was finalized yesterday. The new combination unites two of the major forces in today’s world of data center computing. 


NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang greets the new employees from Mellanox.

NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang greets the new employees from Mellanox. Image used courtesy of NVIDIA

According to the press release, Mellanox’s powerful networking capabilities complement NVIDIA’s computing expertise, which the companies claim will forge a path for next-gen data centers. But what exactly are the hallmarks of next-gen data centers?


An Eye on Next-Gen Data Centers

According to Bill Kleyman from Data Center Knowledge, next-gen data centers will see increasing reliance on software—especially for cloud computing. Next-gen data centers will also require more complex API-integrated management consoles.

But perhaps the most relevant aspect of next-gen data centers that Kleyman identifies, at least in the context of NVIDIA's Mellanox acquisition, involves heightened data center automation and intelligence.


Next-gen data centers

Next-gen data centers may include heightened intelligence and automation.

"Resources will be provisioned and de-provisioned dynamically, users will be load-balanced intelligently, and administrators will be able to focus on providing even greater levels of efficiency," Kleyman explains. He also cites several examples in which robotics may come into play—for instance, plotting higher temperatures in data centers to assess energy output (data centers can get hot!) and measuring temperature and humidity.

NVIDIA's founder and CEO Jensen Huang supports this forward-thinking approach, explaining that the NVIDIA-Mellanox collaboration will "meet the challenge of surging global demand for consumer internet services, and the application of AI and accelerated data science from cloud to edge to robotics.” It only makes sense, then, that NVIDIA and Mellanox would fight fire with fire using their own intelligence platforms.


NVIDIA’s Brings AI to the Data Center

To support this next-gen data center intelligence, NVIDIA offers its core deep learning and AI platforms. NVIDIA’s Tesla graphic processing units (GPU) are the engine of the company’s high-performance computing (HPC) data center. Cloud-based access allows for “democratized” customer access to deep learning and AI functions.


NVIDIA’s inference platform

NVIDIA’s inference platform. Image used courtesy of NVIDIA


NVIDIA says its TensorRT Inference platform delivers the low latency and high performance that AI services require.


What Mellanox's Networking Tech Brings to the Table

Mellanox's networking solutions are based on Ethernet, RoCE (RDMA over Converged Ethernet), or InfiniBand. With Mellanox’s enabled virtualization, today’s organizations can run multiple applications over the same servers to maximize data center efficiency, lowering the total cost of ownership and improving scalability. 

The company offers a network stack that offloads processing from the CPU to the network. This is the most advantageous solution for compute-intensive operations such as machine learning.

Mellanox claims its solutions simplify deployment and maintenance through automated monitoring, provisioning, and integration with many of the most important cloud frameworks. Prophetically, Kleyman's article published in 2015 predicted that next-generation data centers would “revolve around better workflow orchestration and automation services.”

Mellanox’s offerings are designed to take maximum advantage of virtualization. As illustrated in the image below, Mellanox’s ConnectX-3 40GBE adapter is said to maintain faster I/O traffic than multiple 10 GbE ports.


Mellanox’s ConnectX-3 40GBE adapter performance

Mellanox’s ConnectX-3 40GBE adapter performance compared to competitors. Image used courtesy of Mellanox


Complementary Combination of Strengths

Huang sees promise in the complementary strengths of NVIDIA and Mellanox, especially since "the expanding use of AI and data science is reshaping computing and data center architectures.” 

He goes on to state that the merger with Mellanox rounds out NVIDIA’s portfolio of offerings, and that the combined entity now offers "End-to-end technologies from AI computing to networking, full-stack offerings from processors to software, and significant scale to advance next-generation data centers."


A Roadmap for the Future of Data Centers

NVIDIA feels customers will benefit from having both the data center expertise and the necessary networking in one offering. 

In our recent article about the overburdening of data centers due to the COVID-19 crisis, we describe how more and more people are working and playing at home. As people are forced to shelter in place, this invariably puts pressure on the data centers. As such, operators of today’s data centers have their hands filled with the task of simply staying afloat. 

The crisis will be over, and people will leave their homes once again. But, tactful acquisitions like the one between NVIDIA and Mellanox demonstrate how industry leaders are looking to intelligence to support increasingly complex data center loads.



What kinds of hardware innovation do you anticipate will make way for next-gen data centers? Share your thoughts in the comments below.