Bigfoot Networks Embeds Killer NIC Technology On Motherboards

Austin, Texas-based startup Bigfoot Networks made a major strategy shift when the company recently partnered with two key OEMs to integrate its Killer network interface card (NIC) technology on to high-end motherboards.

At CES 2011 Bigfoot teamed up with Asus and Gigabyte, which showed off new motherboard models in Las Vegas that come with embedded versions of Bigfoot's Killer 2100 NIC, dubbed the E2100. For example, Gigabyte introduced a new line of forthcoming gaming-focused motherboards, dubbed the G1-Killer, that come equipped with the E2100 embedded NIC platform along with other enhanced features like integrated audio processors.

"These are big design wins for Bigfoot," said John Drewry, Bigfoot's vice president of marketing. "From our perspective, it always made sense to integrate Killer technology directly on to the motherboard. And now we have some of the biggest OEMs [in the motherboard business]."

Bigfoot's Killer technology uses a dedicated network processing unit (NPU) to prioritize and manage a system's network traffic, removing any CPU bottlenecks and thus improving the network connection. The company, which was founded in 2006, originally produced pricey stand-alone NICs designed the high-end desktops of hardcore PC gamers, but later moved down market into more affordable price points with the Killer Xeno Pro and Killer 2100 cards.

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The Killer E2100 embedded platform and motherboard OEM deals are part of "an ongoing evolution" of the company, according to Drewry. "This allows us to work with third parties, license our technology and features, and enable people to integrate them into their own products," he said.

Drewry added that the motherboard OEM partnerships will help Bigfoot balance out its go-to-market strategy and business model; the hardware maker will continue to sell stand-alone Killer network cards but will also focus on growing its embedded technology business, too.

"We've had talks with other motherboard manufacturers and other types of hardware vendors," Drewry said. "Last year we really shifted from spending a lot of our time marketing our products and educating the public on the value of our technology to now spending more and more time having discussions with prospective OEM partners. I think a lot of companies in the PC components market are looking for ways to integrate new technologies into their products as a way to differentiate themselves from the competition."

While Bigfoot has made its name in the hardcore online gaming and enthusiast PC markets, the company is continuing to explore business applications for its products in the both the mainstream consumer and enterprise markets. Drewry said the Killer technology has potential in areas such as video conferencing and streaming media applications as today's network bandwith becomes increasingly taxed.

"Legacy networks were never designed to handle these kinds of media applications, so we think there's a lot of potential for our technology outside of online gaming," Drewry said. "We have a whole new set of products coming that will help us move more into the mainstream."

Drewry added that Bigfoot will be making another announcement in the coming weeks around the mobile device market.

There are currently no release dates for Gigabyte's G1-Killer and Asus' Asus' new Rampage III Black Edition motherboards, but it is expected that both manufacturers will release pricing and availability information in early 2011.