10 Software Defined Networking Startups to Watch

1 2 Page 2
Page 2 of 2

Why they're on this list: Businesses are struggling to keep up with outsourcing, globalization and the increasing prevalence of mobile workers. All of these employees (as well as partners and customers) demand reliable access to corporate systems. This is easier said than done. Traditional wide-area networks (WAN) are too complex, expensive, and limiting to effectively handle emerging business requirements driven by the cloud and mobility, especially for resource-constrained SMBs.

Pertino's solution is to use SDN technology to create secure, cloud-based WAN/Network-as-a-Service offerings. With Pertino, any business can build a secure cloud-based network in minutes that connects people everywhere -- and on any device -- with IT resources based anywhere.

Pertino's cloud-based platform makes it possible to integrate additional services (from Pertino, as well as from third-party network service providers) and deliver them as applications within the Pertino cloud network service. Pertino's cloud platform service sits on top of LAMP computing stacks within major cloud providers around the world.

Customers include Veracord and Fed Arb.

Competitive Landscape: Pertino will compete against two types of incumbents, MPLS providers (such as AT&T) and traditional WAN Optimization hardware providers (such as Riverbed). They will also compete against other startups, including Aryaka and Zscaler.

8. Plexxi

What they do: Provide SDN solutions.

Headquarters: Cambridge, Mass.

CEO: Dave Husak, who previously co-founded Reva Systems and served as its CTO.

Founded: 2010

Funding: $48+ million in venture financing from Lightspeed Venture Partners, Matrix Partners and Northbridge Venture Partners.

Why they're on this list: Plexxi points out that the networking industry has been offering the same set of layered technologies, originally designed for enterprise LAN connectivity, for the past 20 years. In the meantime, computing and application architectures have advanced dramatically.

Without network virtualization or SDN, applications and their network don't "talk" to each other. This lack of communication means too much capacity goes to places where it's not actually needed, and it's hard to shift capacity to meet bursts in demand. Typical networks are hardwired from the bottom up using a complex set of distributed protocols that attempt to guess their way to optimal topologies. Configuring these networks is still a highly manual, complex, and error-prone process, which makes the network a bottleneck for business agility.

By building an abstracted and programmable layer on top of the physical networking gear, Plexxi's technology not only gives network administrators more flexibility but also more speed. Plexxi has created an affinity-based scale-out networking product family to build, orchestrate and manage network capacity and functionality directly from data center-resident workloads. These products employ a top-down approach that starts with application configuration and ends in the connectivity needed to achieve those needs, rather than the other way around -- or, in other words, the apps dictate networking needs, rather than network capacity determining what stress loads the app can keep up with.

The combination of Plexxi's affinity-based Plexxi Switch (hardware) and Plexxi Control (software) allows data centers to be more flexible, resource coherent, deterministic and centrally managed. Plexxi argues that, unlike other Ethernet products, its real differentiator is the use of optics to replace traditional electronics networking. This not only boosts speeds but also reduces costs and power draw. Plexxi claims its solutions cut the cost of building and operating corporate data centers by a factor of five, and gives adopters a low-risk way to improve their data center efficiencies.

Customers include CloudSigma and NextCloud.

Competitive Landscape: Plexxi only mentions Cisco in its competitive positioning, which is either brash or delusional (you pick). We get their point. They offer a suite of products, like a Cisco. However, other competitors include VMware (through the Nicira acquisition), Brocade (Vyatta acquisition) and other startups, including Embrane, Midokura, Big Switch and PLUMgrid.

9. PLUMgrid

What they do: Provide virtual network infrastructure for cloud data centers.

Headquarters: Sunnyvale, Calif.

CEO: Awais Nemat, who was formerly VP of Marvell Semiconductor's Enterprise Business Unit

Founded: 2011

Funding: $10.7 million from U.S. Venture Partners and Hummer Winblad Venture Partners.

Why they're on this list: Many companies embracing SDN (especially incumbents like HP, Cisco and Brocade) tie their SDN visions to the emerging OpenFlow standard. The trouble with OpenFlow, at this point in time anyway, is that an OpenFlow-based data center would require ripping out and replacing legacy switches.

PLUMgrid takes a different approach, offering a virtual networking overlay solution that takes advantage of the proposed VXLAN standard, which abstracts a Layer 2 network across a LAN. The PLUMgrid Platform is a Virtual Network Infrastructure (VNI) solution that builds on VXLAN virtualization and actually enables the virtualization of Layers 2-7, allowing businesses to completely replicate the functions of a physical network infrastructure (PNI) in a virtual environment, without requiring new hardware investments or changes to existing hardware infrastructures.

Designed for enterprises and service providers building private and public cloud data centers, the PLUMgrid Platform is a distributed system, with no central controller, so it scales better than typical hardware-based solutions. APIs are included for CMP integrations, with OpenStack APIs on the way soon, and the platform also includes SDKs to plug into third-party services from the likes of F5, CheckPoint and Palo Alto.

Customers include AT&T, Cavium and MeetMe.

Competitive Landscape: Competitors include incumbents like Cisco and VMware, as well as such startups as Big Switch, Embrane, Midokura and Plexxi.

10. OpenDaylight Project

What they do: Let me clarify something right off the bat: OpenDaylight Project is not a startup. It's a standards body whose goal is to create open-source SDN standards.

Headquarters: San Francisco, Calif.

Leaders: Jim Zemlin, executive director of The Linux Foundation; Inder Gopal, board chair for OpenDaylight; David Meyer, chair of the Technical Steering Committee for OpenDaylight.

Founded: April 2013

Funding: Members fund the organization, chipping in anywhere from $10, 000-500,000/year, depending on membership level (silver, gold, platinum).

Why they're on this list: In order for SDN to deliver on all of the lofty promises SDN vendors are making, standards will have to emerge. Otherwise, the history of proprietary solutions and vendor-lock will repeat itself. The OpenDaylight Project was founded by Cisco and IBM and includes most of the usual suspects in networking, such as Citrix, Juniper and VMware, as well as most SDN startups, including Big Switch Networks, PLUMgrid and Plexxi.

Plenty of vendors have already contributed IP to the project. In July, NEC contributed its Virtual Tenant Network technology; Radware added its anti-DDoS toolkit; and Plexxi offered up its Affinity Metadata Service, an API that increases the power of OpenDaylight controllers and applications, allowing them to create a topology- and implementation-independent description of the infrastructure.

As with any standards body, there is still plenty of squabbling, but OpenDaylight is hosted by the Linux Foundation, which boosts its credibility, and it is already making real progress towards an open software-defined vision of the data center.

Jeff Vance is a freelance writer based in Santa Monica, calif. Connect with him on Twitter @JWVance or by email at jeff@sandstormmedia.net.

Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline, on Facebook, and onGoogle +.

Read more about mergers/acquisitions in CIO's Mergers/Acquisitions Drilldown.

This story, "10 Software Defined Networking Startups to Watch" was originally published by CIO.

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

1 2 Page 2
Page 2 of 2
SD-WAN buyers guide: Key questions to ask vendors (and yourself)