Startup founded by ex-Cisco execs pushes software-defined networking

Software-defined networking startup Embrane this week came out of stealth mode to unveil its product and strategy for virtualizing network services.

Embrane was founded in 2009 by former Cisco executives Dante Malagrin and Marco Di Benedetto, Embrane's CTO. Malagrin and Di Benedetto were early members of the Andiamo Systems team, a storage networking company funded and acquired by Cisco, as well as Nuova Systems, the company that provided Cisco with its unified computing technology.

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At Cisco, Malagrin helped develop and market Cisco's Data Center 3.0 strategy, which stressed virtualization and a unified fabric. Di Benedetto architected the core elements of Cisco's NX-OS data center operating system.

Other Embrane executives are from 3Com, HP, Juniper, Oracle, Alactel-Lucent, Array Networks and Palo Alto Networks. Embrane has raised $27 million since its founding.

The company's product is Heleos, a distributed software platform for virtualizing Layer 4-7 services like load balancing, firewalling, VPNs and the like. It allows cloud service providers and enterprises to create cloud infrastructure-as-a-service models for their customers by enabling on-demand procurement, provisioning and configuration of these services.

New instances of network services can be up and running in less than two minutes, and capacity can be scaled up or down in less than a minute, Embrane says. This is in contrast to traditional legacy, hardware-based implementations that are rigid, costly, tend to be overprovisioned, have no programmability and limited multi-tenancy options, and come with complicated software licensing terms, Embrane says.

Available today are the Heleos Elastic Services Manager -- the dashboard into the virtualized service environment -- and load balancing and firewall/VPN distributed virtual appliances. The software runs on standard x86 hardware.

The software does not support the OpenFlow API for network virtualization. Embrane views OpenFlow as a Layer 2-3 switch/router API versus a Layer 4-7 programmatic interface, company officials say.

Embrane's Heleos also supports "keyless" licensing in which customers only pay for what they sell or use based on usage, or on an annual subscription.

Competitors to Embrane's Heleos would be any vendor developing and marketing virtualized appliances and/or services on x86 hardware. Vyatta is an example of one such company, particularly on the firewall/VPN offering, Embrane officials say.

Investors in Embrane Lightspeed Venture Partners, NEA and North Bridge Venture Partners.

Read more about data center in Network World's Data Center section.

This story, "Startup founded by ex-Cisco execs pushes software-defined networking" was originally published by Network World.

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