Intel acquires private 5G network provider Ananki

Startup sells software and hardware as a subscription to make private 5G easy


Intel has acquired private 5G network provider Ananki, several months after the startup spun out of the non-profit Open Networking Foundation to commercialize open-source network technologies.

The acquisition was confirmed Monday on LinkedIn by Guru Parulkar, who was co-founder and CEO of Ananki and executive director of the Open Networking Foundation.

Oddly, Intel declined to comment on the Ananki acquisition and instead only confirmed a development that Parulkar said was related: that the Open Networking Foundation's development team has joined Intel's Networking and Edge Group. Intel's statement echoed a quote provided by top Intel networking executive Nick McKeown in a press release published by the non-profit.

"The addition of these developers will support [the Network and Edge Group's] mission to drive the shift toward software-defined and fully programmable infrastructure – from the cloud, through the Internet and 5G networks, all the way out to the Intelligent Edge. Intel intends to continue to support and contribute to ONF's open-source efforts," an Intel spokesperson said. No financial terms were disclosed.

Ananki provides an open-source, software-defined service that aims to make private 5G "as easy to consume as Wi-Fi" for enterprises working on so-called Industry 4.0 projects. This involves connecting a variety of things, including cameras, sensors, robots, and autonomous vehicles, over high-speed networks in various settings, from factories to retail stores.

Ananki has a diverse range of products, including a SaaS-based 5G software stack, small cell radios, SIM cards, and a dashboard for monitoring and analyzing network activity. These are provided through a subscription-based service that charges organizations based on how much 5G coverage they need.

If Intel continues to offer Ananki's products as a subscription service, it would fall in line with the semiconductor giant's plan to buoy hardware sales with a significant increase in software revenue, as The Register has previously reported. Less than two weeks ago, we reported that Intel plans to offer the cloud optimization software of Granulate, another startup it plans to acquire, in Xeon CPU sales pitches.

The Ananki transaction is part of a broader effort by the Open Networking Foundation to support the increasing commercialization of its open-source, software-defined networking technologies, which it originally developed with the financial support of its more than 100 members. Those include Intel as well as several other prominent tech companies, such as AMD, AT&T, Broadcom, Cisco, Google, Microsoft, Nvidia, and T-Mobile.

The Open Networking Foundation said this new commercialization shift involves open-sourcing the entirety of its production-ready software, which includes the private 5G, SD-RAN, SD-Fabric and SD-Core technologies that serve as the basis of Ananki's products. The nonprofit has also made its software-defined broadband and P4 programmable network technologies available as open source.

"We have built platforms that naysayers said were doomed to fail, we've proven what's possible, and today a number of our platforms have been deployed in production networks and others are now production ready and expected to be broadly adopted," said Parulkar, who is now vice president of software within Intel's Network and Edge Group.

Crucially, the non-profit's commercialization push includes moving development from internal teams to member organizations. As such, the nonprofit is transitioning a majority of its development team to Intel's Network and Edge Group, which is also the new home of Ananki.

"ONF has made important contributions to the industry with its software-defined development projects, and I am confident that its move to a community-sourced model as part of its next stage of growth will fuel further contributions as the industry and its needs advance," McKeown said. ®


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