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Cisco to acquire Exablaze for high-performance switching

Cisco plans to acquire Australia-based Exablaze and eventually use its technology in AI applicatons. The acquisition is similar to rival Arista's 2018 purchase of Metamoko.

Cisco plans to acquire Exablaze, a maker of switches and network interface cards used in high-frequency trading and high-performance computing. The acquisition is similar to one made by rival Arista Networks about a year ago.

Exablaze, based in Australia, designs and manufactures network hardware with field-programmable gate arrays (FPGA). Companies can program the integrated circuits in the field to tailor microprocessors for specific uses.

Cisco said this week that it would complete the acquisition by the end of April 2020. The company did not release financial details.

Cisco's move into ultralow-latency switching is comparable to Arista's. The latter vendor bought Australia-based Metamako, which also designed and manufactured FPGA-enabled hardware.

"The Cisco acquisition of Exablaze is remarkably similar to Arista's acquisition of Metamako," Brad Casemore, an analyst at IDC, said.

Metamoko's network gear and software also focused on financial trading and high-powered computing found in universities, government and research centers. Both acquisitions bring technology that should prove useful in future applications leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Greg Robinson, Exablaze ChaimanExablaze Chairman Greg Robinson

Arista and Cisco will be competing for the business of stock exchanges and financial service organizations. Those businesses consider miniscule increases in network speed a competitive advantage.

"Shaving latency can mean competitive advantage and huge windfalls for the customer deploying and using this technology," Casemore said.

Exablaze in AI, machine learning

Future uses for Exablaze technology includes faster movement of AI and machine learning data. Cisco is incorporating both into network automation and management.

The Exablaze acquisition is Cisco's second silicon-related announcement in less than a week. On Dec. 11, the company introduced an application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) called Silicon One.

Cisco designed the ASIC as a single platform for all routers within a service provider data center. The launch marked Cisco's push into the merchant silicon business.

Cisco will use Silicon One in its routers and sell it for use in white box hardware. Service providers often prefer to use merchant silicon in routers from Accton Technology, Edgecore Networks, Foxconn Technology Group or other suppliers.

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