Hardware, Software Programs

How a Once Small Gaming Company Will Change the Way We Network


In our CES conversation with Dan Rabinovitsj, SVP and GM of the Networking Business Unit at Qualcomm Atheros, we immediately kicked off the discussion talking about two companies that both of us were intimately familiar with. Bigfoot Networks. Dan was partially responsible for the BigFoot Networks acquisition as he told us that they were actively looking at all of their partners to see who was innovating the most with their products and in which ways. He said that BigFoot was a relatively small partner, but really showed some great promise, which we’ll talk about today.

For those unfamiliar with BigFoot Networks, they are a company that is purely bred from the gaming industry. BigFoot networks first started out with their somewhat gimmicky Killer NIC which was then somewhat received by boutique system builders but not really taken seriously. They did not give up, xthough, and they did improve their functionality and hardware and eventually landed a series of hits with the Killer 2100 wired NIC as well as the Killer Wireless N devices.

Their latest offerings utilized what was then called Atheros’ chips combined with BigFoot’s programming know-how and gaming experience. But as BigFoot began to create their wired and wireless gaming NICs they realized that gamers didn’t only game while they were on the internet, but they also did a lot of downloading of torrents and other intensive data streams. What BigFoot (now called Killer) then did was integrate more QoS services into their NICs which enabled users to properly manage internet, torrents and gaming at levels which enabled users to have the best possible experience while still maintaining the best possible connection to all of their internet services.

When we last tested the Killer NIC 2100, their NIC was designed to not only improve gaming latency, which it really did quite well, but also to manage torrents, streaming videos and internet browsing to a whole new level. They enabled you to turn off your computer but still continue to download your torrents and keep your discs still spinning and writing those downloads to disk. This brought upon the birth of many different profiles for different applications for users to help them more effectively manage their various programs and internet services. All of this development that Killer (formerly called BigFoot) had created for gamers is now being integrated into Qualcomm Atheros’ networking strategy.

Next territory for Killer will be Hybrid Fidelity, i.e. increasing the quality of networking in connected home

Next territory for Killer will be Hybrid Fidelity, i.e. increasing the quality of networking in connected home

So, why did Qualcomm Atheros buy this seemingly gaming-centric company? Well, Dan told us that it was because they bought the best. They bought them because BigFoot Networks fit into their idea of what a connected home needs, smart routers and smart gateways. This is because there are already many different applications in your networks with different users. This will only continue to evolve the idea of a router when we start thinking about the connected home and the important features that a router will need in order to make that successfully happen.

The routers of tomorrow will be evolved for these purposes to do a lot more stuff in the home. A wide array of connections will be connecting to that single box which will be managing the whole network. A big step that current networks/router need to make is the management and improvement of the quality of service. This is all built off of gaming technology which is a tiny but important factor as it enables the entire home network to accomplish daily tasks more effectively. Streaming both video and audio across the home does require better performance and latency is an issue for all of those right now. The router will be actively managing the network in order to shape traffic more effectively.

These routers will be managing high-bandwidth applications so that the user doesn’t have to manage the network. The days of having to manually set up QoS will be over resulting in both a smarter router and a smarter overall network. One great way that this can happen is through the crowdsourcing project which Killer is working with Qualcomm Atheros on. They will utilize Qualcomm’s already existing cloud infrastructure to enable the crowdsourcing of specific application profiles on people’s networks.

You will have the option of opting-in to the BigFoot/Killer routers and when a new application is detected or a new version of the software is detected, the router will through the cloud update itself in order to make itself smarter. By having thousands if not millions of routers on this system it ensures that almost no user out there has an application on their network that isn’t supported and managed by the router.

From our conversation with Qualcomm Atheros it is pretty clear that they are doing everything they can to push the envelope when it comes to making networks seamless. With the recent addition of BigFoot Networks into the Qualcomm Atheros family, we can clearly see the benefits of having a gaming pedigree to the rest of consumer electronics. After all, almost all current computing technologies were driven to the point of performance that they are at now purely because of gaming. We sincerely hope to see this technology in routers extremely soon and hope to get a chance to test it on our own in the very near future.