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Nvidia buys Excelero to speed block storage access in DPUs

Excelero's NVMe storage pooling technology will become integrated with Nvidia's DPU technology stack for faster block storage access in data centers.

Nvidia purchased Excelero, a software-defined block storage vendor based in Tel Aviv, Israel, to further support development of Nvidia's data center services and high-performance computing platforms.

Excelero's NVMesh technology will become part of Nvidia's data center-on-a-chip architecture, a software development kit and runtime environment for Nvidia's BlueField data processing units (DPU).

"They're not going to be selling this as is," said Dave Raffo, a senior analyst at Evaluator Group. "They're using this technology inside their software stacks."

Specifics of the acquisition, including total price, were not disclosed. A majority of the Excelero team will join Nvidia, and the company will continue supporting existing customers, according to Chris Lamb, vice president of GPU computing software platforms at Nvidia.

"Excelero has been a long-time partner of Mellanox and Nvidia, having integrated Nvidia's Magnum IO and RDMA technology in their stack," Lamb said in an email statement. Nvidia acquired Mellanox Technologies in March 2019 for $7 billion.

Building blocks

NVMesh, Excelero's flagship product, virtualizes and pools NVMe flash storage devices for fast access over ethernet or fabric as virtual block storage volumes. The software also disaggregates the storage from application servers, saving server CPU overhead from managing storage.

Faster storage access speeds further enhance the capabilities of DPUs, a hardware bet by Nvidia. DPUs offload networking and hardware communications from CPUs, freeing up resources among data center servers. Cloud service providers such as Red Hat already use Nvidia DPUs for AI application development, primarily to speed up the communication of services across the network.

DPU vendors believe early adopters will include telecom companies and cloud hyperscalers that sell high-performance compute as a service and need to squeeze performance from software and hardware stacks.

Nvidia executives have previously said DPUs can act as a "the computer in front of a computer" with a DPU that can, for example, enable a firewall application to better monitor network traffic without compromising CPU performance.

Block isn't something you'd use in a cloud-first application, but block is used in everything else in the enterprise. Block proliferates across the important verticals.
Alan WeckelFounder, 650 Group

The block storage access of NVMesh further enhances Nvidia's portfolio of database hardware and services, a market the company has been aggressively pursuing, said Alan Weckel, founder of 650 Group, a market analysis firm.

"The ability to accelerate storages becomes an opportunity for them and a necessity for them," Weckel said. "Block isn't something you'd use in a cloud-first application, but block is used in everything else in the enterprise. Block proliferates across the important verticals."

Vertical integration

Nvidia acquired Mellanox, a company also based in Israel, for its low-latency networking products to enhance the BlueField DPU line.

Mellanox, which was joined at the hip to Nvidia as a technology partner for years prior to the formal acquisition, also invested in Excelero. The flash memory startup came out of stealth in 2017 and struck up a partnership with Lenovo in 2019 to sell its NVMesh software.

"It's a natural progression for Nvidia," Weckel said. "They get some cool technology they can pull in and integrate. That makes these small, tuck-in acquisitions attractive."

Smaller company buys by Nvidia may be a useful strategy to expand its capabilities and bide its time until another integration opportunity, Weckel said.

Nvidia's most recent attempt at consolidation caught the ire of international business regulators, as well as Nvidia's own business partners, with its $40 billion bid to buy chip maker Arm Ltd.

"As time goes on, based on regulator events, there will be another round of consolidation," he said. "But who buys who is a matter of debate."

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