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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

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

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

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, 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.