Five Networking Startups to Watch in 2014

As the networking landscape changes, new startups are emerging, promising to change the ways enterprises connect. Julie Knudson looks at five such companies and what they offer.

By Julie Knudson | Posted Jan 6, 2014
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The start of a new year is a great time to look ahead at who's poised to shake up the networking market. To provide some perspective, Enterprise Networking Planet talked with Sunil Potti, vice president and general manager of cloud networking for Citrix, to see from where he thought innovations were likely to spring in 2014.

First, Potti believes we'll see a mindset shift in the coming year, from doing new things (think: SDN) to doing existing things in a better way. Mobility will also provide new opportunities. "How do you look at traffic when it doesn't come to a single location, your users can be everywhere, and your apps are globally dispersed?" he asked. Services will also likely be a hot area for innovation. "It's how you deliver that networking service in a world where users are global and your apps are also outside of your enterprise," Potti explained.

The following five startups do things differently, look at mobility in new ways, and bring fresh perspectives to how networking services happen.

Corsa Technology's OpenFlow Data Plane

Though still partially in stealth mode, Corsa Technology clearly aims to change how enterprises look at the data plane. Bruce Gregory, CEO, said the team at Corsa wasn't satisfied with existing hardware options. That dissatisfaction prompted them to "develop a dedicated OpenFlow data plane" that can evolve over the next few years as the OpenFlow spec evolves.

"It's pretty hard for a large, incumbent hardware vendor to stop what they're doing and start all over again and build something completely different," Gregory explained. "We saw an opportunity to do a data plane from the ground up."

Corsa's leadership team has deep expertise in the startup sector, with experience at Catena Networks (acquired by Ciena in 2004) and Extreme Packet Devices (aquired by PMC-Sierra in 2000), among others. The company is also involved with the activities of the Open Networking Foundation (ONF), where CTO and co-founder Yatish Kumar serves on the Chipmakers' Advisory Board.

Cumulus Networks and Linux Flexibility

After seeing that the traditional networking model posed significant difficulties compared to his experience managing servers, where software does much of the legwork, Nolan Leake, co-founder and CTO, said he and Cumulus Networks co-founder and CEO JR Rivers decided it was time to inject some Linux flexibility into networking. Building on the idea that most network platforms are Linux under the covers, Cumulus recently rolled out a Linux OS designed for networking hardware.

 "We want to kind of break apart the proprietary, all-in-one, vertically integrated appliances and enable customers to mix and match between hardware and software, much like they do on the server side," Leake explained.

Leake and Rivers have some impressive networking cred, including positions at VMware, Cisco and Google. The team had some great early success in 2013, but Leake predicted 2014 would see Cumulus enabling "more sophisticated topologies that are much more tailored to what modern applications need, rather than just whatever hardware platforms are available."

PernixData Scales Out Storage with Virtualization

Virtualization may have revolutionized how networks are architected and administered, but Jeff Aaron, vice president of marketing at PernixData, says storage systems haven't been able to keep up. To combat the resulting bottlenecks, the company is focused on improving server and storage performance at the data layer.

To offer enterprise administrators a way to use virtualization to efficiently scale out storage performance, the company developed PernixData FVP software, which Aaron said is "a giant leap from the storage status quo." The platform virtualizes server-side flash and decouples storage performance from capacity.

"PernixData's goal in 2014 is to make FVP the de facto standard for flash virtualization," Aaron said. The client base will stretch from SMBs to enterprise to service providers, and Aaron added that the team will announce strategic partnerships and is "actively expanding the company into new global markets." New pricing models for FVP software will be released that target these segments. The company's leadership team includes industry veterans from VMware, Oracle and Silver Peak Systems.

Sideband Networks' Application-Aware Network Performance Monitoring

As administrators increasingly look to make the best use of network assets and head off potential issues before they turn into real problems, network management tools continue to grow in prominence. That's where Sideband Networks (www.sidebandnetworks.com) hopes to make an impact with their application-aware network performance monitoring solution.

Unlike some performance monitoring platforms, Sideband's offering, as Zane Taylor, founder and CEO, explained, provides administrators with a single point of management that correlates live and logged data in a unified single pane view. Available as either hardware or a virtual appliance, Sideband's tools incorporate dynamic network discovery and the ability to examine both physical and virtual connections.

Taylor brings with him experience gained at Cisco, Citrix and FireEye, among others. Asked what Sideband will bring the marketplace in 2014, he replied, "More features, capabilities, better understanding of your growing network, and [we'll] continue to provide improved end-to-end QoS for your entire network infrastructure."

Tallac Networks and Software Defined Mobility

Mobility solutions are increasingly crucial to enterprises, but often, only the largest companies (or the ones with the deepest pockets) can afford to employ robust security and operational efficiency. Tallac Networks plans to change all that with a cloud-based Wi-Fi solution that leverages SDN architecture and keeps costs affordable.

Tallac will launch Software Defined Mobility, the company's cloud-based SDN Wi-Fi platform, in the first half of 2014. "Our team is currently deploying solutions with early beta customers and will expand the number of pilot sites in March," said Bill Johnson, president of Tallac. The platform bundles third-party Wi-Fi hardware with mobility applications. Hospitality, retail, education and healthcare clients are among Tallac's primary targets.

Johnson and others in Tallac's leadership boast years of networking experience at HP, and several of them actively contribute to SDN and Wi-Fi standardization through their roles in the IEEE and Open Network Foundation (ONF). In addition to their mobility platform, the company also runs a thriving education and consulting business.

The networking landscape is undergoing a revolution, creating an environment conducive to startups looking to capitalize on the sea change in the data center. What startups do you think will gain traction in 2014? Let us know in the comments.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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