NIC Maker Accelerates Warcraft, Expands Channel Program

By Jessica Davis  |  Print this article Print

Bigfoot Networks is looking to bridge the gap between high-end network processors offered by companies such as Cisco and low-end providers of the most basic networking components such as Marvel. Bigfoot is targeting the "World of Warcraft" users and the rest of the online gaming market first because it is the biggest potential market, but has an eye on business applications such as video conferencing and online enterprise applications, too.

With close to 12 million subscribers to the online game "World of Warcraft," there are plenty of users out there clamoring for top-performing gaming computers that don’t fall victim to excessive network latency.

Enter Bigfoot Networks. This 3-year-old company wants to do for online gaming what graphics card makers such as Nvidia and ATI (now a division of AMD) did for gaming graphics.

Bigfoot offers a co-processor—the Killer Xeno NIC (network interface card) that optimizes networking performance on a PC by offloading networking functions such as Winsock processing from the main CPU. The result is an accelerated networking experience for network-intensive PC applications such as online games and voice over IP (VOIP).

Now Bigfoot is expanding its distribution of the card beyond the OEM market by licensing the technology to add-on board providers. Early partners include Evga, says Michael Howse, CEO of Bigfoot Networks.

Howse says the Bigfoot card bridges the gap for network processors (NPUs). Previously companies such as Cisco offered very high-end NPUs while many other vendors offered the bare basics network cards that only enabled functions such as Ethernet, without any additional smart processing functions.  Bigfoot’s card is the first to bridge that gap, says Howse, providing smart network processing for PCs.

Bigfoot’s device accelerates online performance by doing deep packet processing and directly injecting packets into the games, says Howse.

"As a result, we get increased frame rates for games," he says. In addition, gamers will see improved performance of VOIP functions in their games, he says.

The Bigfoot network processor does that by prioritizing packets, Howse says. In addition, Bigfoot provides a suite of tools that enables end users to tune the performance of the solution themselves. The default sets gaming traffic as top priority and VOIP traffic as second. But users can tweak the performance to give other applications priority instead.

The card also comes with Killer Firewall, a hardware-based firewall that includes IP tables and offers a first line of defense.

"Most users today are turning off their software-based firewalls for performance reasons," says Howse. "Up to 15 percent of their CPU performance is being used by firewalls. This hardware-based firewall helps to make their computer much more secure while they are playing with other users."

Bigfoot’s underlying technology is a system on chip (SOC) from Freescale running Linux and embedded with Bigfoot’s software technology. The company takes the entire Windows networking stack from Microsoft and embeds that on the hardware, too.

"We call that Windows bypass networking," Howse says.

Bigfoot chose to initially focus marketing its product to the online gaming market because that is the No. 1 growth market. However, Bigfoot is aware of all the business applications that could also benefit from such a product, including desktop telepresence video conferencing, cloud-based applications such as Salesforce.com, Google Docs, and video.

"You are seeing more and more applications requiring real-time collaboration over the Internet," says Howse. "Those kinds of applications will also get a big performance boost.

"Our goal and mission is to deliver the best real-time Internet experience possible," he says.

Bigfoot was founded in December 2005 by members of Intel’s Advanced Networking Group in Austin, Texas, including Harlan Beverly, now Bigfoot’s CTO, who spent much of his free time doing online gaming. The group came up with the idea for the company, entered it in a local business competition and won.

Jessica Davis covers the channel for eWeek and Channel Insider. Her technology journalism career began well before anyone heard of the World Wide Web and has included stints at Infoworld, Electronic News/EDN, and the Philadelphia Business Journal. Her work has also appeared on CNN and Forbes.com. She has covered hardware, software and networking, as well as the business side of technology. She has won several journalism awards, including a national ASBPE award for best staff-written column, and was named Marketing Computers hardest working tech journalist on their inaugural list of top tech journalists. Jessica can be reached at jessica.davis@ziffdavisenterprise.com

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