News hot off the wire is that Rivet Networks, the company behind the Killer range of accelerated networking products and analysis tools, is being acquired by Intel. The two companies have been working very closely of late, using a unified silicon strategy for the latest gigabit Ethernet networking silicon and also Wi-Fi 6 add-in cards and CNVi CRF modules for laptops. This new acquisition for Intel will enable an element of Ethernet traffic monitoring and optimization the portfolio has not had before, but it will be interesting to see how Intel hands the acquisition compared to when Qualcomm Atheros acquired Rivet Networks some years ago.

A lot of technology savvy users that have been around a while know about the Killer brand of networking products. The company originally burst onto the scene with an FPGA and a big heavy K heatsink looking to offer lower PC-to-Internet latencies, especially in games. Over time that FPGA became its own ASIC and gigabit Ethernet controller, and the company moved more into the ability to transparently detect and shape networking traffic, allowing high-priority traffic to pass through with the lowest latency, but downloads and streaming to get the lowest latency. Users were able to configure their network, as well as direct traffic through different networking interfaces if two Killer products were supported.

The original Bigfoot Killer NIC in 2006

The company originally started as Bigfoot Networks, and came to market with the Killer NIC in 2006. Qualcomm’s Atheros division, focused on networking, acquired the company in September 2011. The acquisition with Qualcomm gave a lot of access to Qualcomm’s ASIC building capabilities, bringing the power of the NIC down from an FPGA but also increasing the capability of the hardware and software. However, after several years of no product development or generational iterations, the original founders and engineers of the company spun back out of Qualcomm to form Rivet Networks, in an effort to build the Killer branding once again. Originally working with Qualcomm’s Atheros silicon, Rivet Networks started partnering with Intel and Realtek on various parts offering a standard version under the normal brand or the Killer version with additional network detection and shaping capabilities. This led to a resurgence in the capabilities of the hardware, with Dell, MSI, GIGABYTE, ASRock, and other OEMs becoming customers.

The Rivet Networks Killer AX1650, already built on Intel AX200 Silicon

When we saw a Killer NIC in the Dell XPS, the company had truly made it. Dell’s business machines also got access to SmartByte, a special app detection algorithm for Dell end-users and business customers. Rivet Networks have also developed a number of technologies to its portfolio, including supporting switch-like mechanics for multi-controller systems, or Wi-Fi extension services through time-muxing the Wi-Fi modem.

All these technologies will now fall under the Intel umbrella. The Rivet Networks team will join Intel’s Wireless Solutions Group within the Client Computing Group. Given that the two groups have been working very closely with the AX201 and Killer AX1650 networking chips recently, which underneath both use Intel silicon, it will be interesting to see where it all goes from here. I know of a number of plans that the Rivet team were working towards, some of them would be very beneficial to the consumer market, so I hope that Intel keeps the same passion alive.


This news is still breaking, we will update as we get more information


I had an on-the-record call with the Rivet Networks team and Intel, with lots of interesting information. While the value of the acquisition is not being disclosed, talks started in earnest at the end of last year about the right time and the level of synergy between the two companies. There is no mention of personnel, however every person that Intel offered a position too at Rivet took that offer. Rivet's CEO Mike Cubbage will now be Intel's Senior Director of Connectivity Innovations.

Intel is set to keep the Killer brand and integrate it into its portfolio of products. I asked if there were any particular brands that Intel was keen on or not keen on - Intel's Eric McLaughlin, VP and GM of the Wireless Group stated that Intel is interested in all of them, especially in how they've been deployed so far and how Intel can scale them in more places and different ways.

I did ask a question about the integration, given how when Rivet/Bigfoot Networks was acquired by Qualcomm and then had to spin out again in order to drive the product, I was worried Intel might do the same. Mike told me that Rivet's Killer brand strengths back then, and even today, are in the PC and Gaming space, which perfectly aligns with what Intel is focused on. This is different to the previous acquisition, where is was more of a business portfolio play, but this time around Intel looks set on developing the Killer technology into a wide variety of products at scale, something which Rivet wasn't able to do previously.


Source: Intel

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  • timecop1818 - Wednesday, May 20, 2020 - link

    Well that's really unfortunate, so now I can't buy anything with Intel NICs either as they will be tainted with this killer bullshit, unless Intel is buying this stuff just to bury them.
  • SteveX107 - Thursday, May 21, 2020 - link

    OT: Why doesn't Anandtech switch to another comment management system, such as Discus?
  • vladx - Thursday, May 21, 2020 - link

    Probably because they wisely decided against a like/dislike system that Disqus currently uses.
  • PeachNCream - Thursday, May 21, 2020 - link

    "When we saw a Killer NIC in the Dell XPS, the company had truly made it."

    The company has not truly made anything of value in over a decade and getting Dell to keep using Intel wireless adapter hardware with some other company's sticker on it is not a remarkable accomplishment since those laptops would have ended up with Intel adapters regardless.
  • shadowjk - Thursday, May 21, 2020 - link

    This is just a clever plan for Intel to triple their network controller income:

    1) Intel replaces their line of Ethernet and wireless controllers with killer networking, complete with killer's infamous driver quality
    2) Intel relaunches their own controllers at double the previous price point
    3) Profit!
  • PeachNCream - Thursday, May 21, 2020 - link

    Well, there is a need for a "premium gamer" category in just about every product type and network adapters are one of the few places where gamers can't ramble pointlessly about specs to one another in order to impress their friends mainly because Rivet Networks' attempts to be that premium brand have failed to offer a more reliable or more useful product that actually does anything that can be shown in a benchmark or in some review article.

    To the contrary, Bigfoot/Rivet/whatever company bought the leftovers of the original company this year, has really only managed build a reputation of being somewhere between worthless garbage you replaced with a crappy Realtek card from ebay to an Intel NIC with a different sticker that you used with Intel drivers if you wanted anything to work reliably.

    Perhaps being purchased by Intel will at least help with the honesty department of marketing. Rivet has always hard sold their traffic prioritization as somehow beneficial when it clearly is not able to do anything at all that can be measured. Intel has a better marketing crew and the company may professionalize how the products are presented. We'll have to simply wait and see what happens.
  • schujj07 - Thursday, May 21, 2020 - link

    I wonder if they are acquiring Killer because they lost out on the bid to acquire Mellanox?
  • Soulkeeper - Thursday, May 21, 2020 - link

    Another competitor bites the dust.
    Now I guess intel will only have to worry about realtek.
  • PeachNCream - Thursday, May 21, 2020 - link

    One can only hope that Killer branding will die for good after this and the "features" that were supposedly worth the garbage software will fade from memory as well.

    Personally, I'd rather have, in order of preference:

    1. Intel NIC running Intel's drivers
    2. Realtek NIC
    3. Anything else possible including cans with string or a station wagon filled with floppy diskettes
    4. Something with Killer branding that Rivet Networks touched
  • schujj07 - Thursday, May 21, 2020 - link

    For 1GbE the i350 is a good NIC. The Intel X550/710 are decent 10GbE and one of the few that is used for RJ45 connections. When it comes to anything with an SFP connection give me a Mellanox ConnectX any day. I wish that there were ConnectX4-LX cards that had 10GBase-T connections instead of just SFP+/SFP28.

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