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Amazon is reportedly working on custom networking chips

Amazon is reportedly working on custom networking chips

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Amazon’s custom silicon, moving its packets

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Amazon is reportedly working on custom silicon chips for its hardware network switches, according to The Information. The chips, which could help Amazon improve its internal infrastructure as well as AWS, are said to be the result of Amazon’s $350 million acquisition of Israeli chipmaking firm Annapurna Labs back in 2015.

Amazon building the silicon for its switches could help it solve bottlenecks and issues in its own infrastructure, especially if it’s also custom-building the software that runs on them. Amazon already builds its own switches, but it’s reliant on Broadcom for the silicon that powers them. It makes sense for the company to want to completely control those machines, especially given how important its web services business is. It’s possible Amazon could even offer some services it wasn’t able to offer before, powered by the new switches, The Information suggests, citing the machine learning software that Amazon offers that currently runs on Annapurna chips.

The reported chips aren’t Amazon’s first custom silicon product. The company has previously worked with MediaTek to create a chip for its Echo smart speaker products, designed to make Alexa respond faster. It also has its custom machine learning chips it calls Trainium, which will become available to AWS customers soon. It makes sense that the company would also want its own chips to power the backbone of its network.

Custom chip design is also quickly becoming table stakes for big tech companies. We’ve recently seen reports that Google and Microsoft are building custom processors for their devices, and Apple has been doing it for years now, with the M1 Macs being an example of how much more potent a company’s products can be when it controls both the hardware and software. While Amazon may not be a titan in the smartphone or PC space, it’s a giant in the cloud, and that’s where it seems to be focusing on putting new chips to work.

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