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10 network virtualization, SDN and data center companies to watch

Ex-Cisco, Sun, Oracle and Symantec execs try their hands at data center start-ups

By , Network World
February 27, 2013 07:30 AM ET
Companies to watch

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More information: PLUMgrid 

PLUMgrid has issued an open challenge about why the company is called what it's called. When executives reveal details about the company's plans during a launch event in the spring, CEO Nemat plans to hold a drawing for anyone who guesses right and the winner will take home an iPad.

Nemat is also secretive about exactly what the 50-employee company is up to, but has shared some clues. He promises it will be a virtual networking advancement. The problem with many existing solutions, Nemat says, is that they're not able to work on top of existing network gear, requiring a "rip and replace" model.

PLUMgrid's technology, described as an I/O control system for connecting networks, storage, compute and applications, "lives on top of servers as a software layer that protects existing investments, while also providing a path for greenfield investments," Nemat says. PLUMgrid has decided not to be OpenFlow-based, and is instead developing its own network controlling software.

Pluribus

Pluribus Networks

Headquarters: Palo Alto

Founded: 2010

Focus: Hardware-accelerated network virtualization for public/private clouds

Product availability: Limited availability of NetVisor software and Server-Switch hardware, with general availability in Q2

Funding: $42 million from NEA, Menlo Ventures, Mohr Davidow Ventures.

Management: CEO Robert Drost and CTO Sunay Tripathi, both formerly with Sun; Vice President of Engineering Ken Yang is on sabbatical from UCLA

More information: Pluribus 

While working at Sun as chief architect for storage and network virtualization of Solaris, Pluribus CTO Tripathi kept running into the same problem, as did Sun customers. "Coordinating between multiple networking components is really hard to do," he says. Between the compute virtualization layer, the persistent environment and the different operating systems, hypervisors and applications on each server, it is really difficult to centrally control them.

Tripathi (who holds 80 patents, many related to Solaris, but a variety in virtual switches, too) left Sun to solve this problem, and for the past three years has been building a team to create its Netvisor network operating system and Server-Switch hardware. Similar to how the x86 server ushered in an era of compute virtualization, Tripathi says a new era of networking chips from manufacturers like Fulcrum, Intel and Trident will allow increased programmability of switches. But they still need an operating system to control them, and that's what Pluribus provides.

Tripathi says he started Pluribus before the hype around SDNs heated up. Even though there are a bunch of startups in this emerging field - just look at the rest of this list of companies to watch - Tripathi says Pluribus's Netvisor system can work with next-generation networking switches and controllers from the likes of Nicira and Big Switch.

VC Jim Smith of Mohr Davidow, which has backed Pluribus, says a couple of things stood out to him about this start-up, including the team and its devotion to offering a complete package. "We're already seeing the pain-points for this next-generation networking technology," Smith says. "It's clear there will be a new control layer to manage these super-complex compute and networking environments we're building for the future. Pluribus Networks is one of the few companies we've seen that offers a complete fabric for handling that complexity."

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