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Largest InfiniBand vendors merge; eye converged networks

There is one less InfiniBand vendor following today’s merger of the market leaders Mellanox and Voltaire. There is also one larger player to watch in the converged storage and networking space.

The merger leaves two InfininBand vendors — Mellanox and QLogic, which is primarily a Fibre Channel HBA vendor. Both have their sights on Ethernet as well, as Voltaire did before Mellanox bought it today for $176 million.

Once the merger closes – probably early next year – the new Mellanox will be a more complete InfiniBand vendor. The deal combines Mellanox’s silicon and adapter cards with Voltaire switches and software. Voltaire already bought its switch chips from Mellanox.

Mellanox CEO Eyal Waldman said the two companies will combine product lines in late 2011. He said some of the vendors’ OEM partners and large customers actually requested a merger of the vendors. Mellanox and Voltaire have OEM deals with IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Oracle/Sun and other server vendors, and share enterprise customers including Shell, General Electric and Exxon.

Waldman said the growth of the combined companies will come from adding Voltaire software such as Unified Fabric Manager and Voltaire Storage Accelerator to Mellanox products. “Today they come on top of Voltaire’s systems, and in the future I hope they also come on top of Mellanox’s systems,” he said.

Mellanox and Voltaire were the largest survivors of the handful of vendors who sold InfiniBand devices, hoping that it’s low latency would help it catch on as a major network interconnect. But InfiniBand remains largely a niche player for high performance computing and companies that rely heavily on transactional data for trading. Over the last year, Mellanox had revenue of $149.5 million and Voltaire’s revenue was $67.7 million. QLogic, which got into InfiniBand by acquiring PathScale and SilverStorm in 2006, had $39 million of revenue from InfiniBand last year.

Today’s merger can accelerate Mellanox’s move into converged networks because Voltaire’s software can manage storage and 10-Gigabit Ethernet networks. Both vendors say their 10-GbE devices can support Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) as well. QLogic has the lead there, though, with FCoE adapters already on the market.

Waldman said Mellanox would keep Voltaire’s employees, bringing the combined headcount to around 700. Voltaire CEO and chairman Ronnie Kenneth will join the Mellanox board, pending shareholder approval.

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