Embrane Taps Ex-Spirent Boss Bill Burns as CEO
Cisco-backed virtual applications startup Embrane this week named as its new CEO Bill Burns, who previously experienced an unhappy ending to an otherwise successful stint heading up test and measurement systems vendor Spirent Comunications.
Burns replaces Embrane Inc. co-founder, Dante Malagrinò, who continues as chief product officer.
"Under Burns' leadership, Spirent grew revenue and profitability while establishing Spirent as a market share leader across each of its market segments," Embrane said in a statement.
That's true, but not the whole truth. Burns was named CEO of Spirent Communications plc in 2008. While sales grew during most of Burns's time there, revenues were flat in 2012 and down in the first half of last year. Spirent dumped Burns in September. (See Spirent Dumps Its CEO).
The transition seems to be a classic case of an entrepreneurial founder bringing in professional management to take the company to the next level. As a matter of fact, Embrane uses that exact phrase in its statement, attributed to Malagrinò. "With our customer traction, our new round of funding, and our string of industry partnerships, it's clear the time is now to take the company to the next level and Bill is the perfect candidate to carry our momentum forward. Blah blah excited blah blah challenges something about enterprises and service providers."
OK, so I may have made up the bit that starts with "blah blah," but the rest is verbatim.
And, as the statement verifies, Embrane has a new cash injection to help Burns reach that next level. The company recently announced a $14 million Series-C funding round led by Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO). Also chipping in are new Embrane investor Presideo Ventures, and previous investors Lightspeed Venture Partners, New Enterprise Associates (NEA), and North Bridge Venture Partners. (See Embrane Helps Cisco Build Its SDN Strategy.)
Embrane also announced partnerships to deliver its virtual lifecycle management solution for the Cisco Adaptive Security Virtual Appliance (ASAv) as well as virtual appliances from Cisco-owned Sourcefire. (See Cisco Banks on Sourcefire & Snort for Security.)
Embrane's pitch to customers is that it can offer an efficient way to introduce and manage essential applications, such as firewalls and load balancers, into a traditional or software-defined network through the use of its heleos software platform. Heleos provisions virtual servers, connecting them to the network, assigning rules and policies to applications, enables high availability, and automates licensing and usage monitoring for virtual appliances. The software is designed to eliminate the need to manage those functions manually.
While Embrane's software system and applications can be used in all kinds of network architectures, and is hardware-agnostic, its approach is tailor-made for SDN-enabled networks, which makes Cisco's support for Embrane intriguing, as SDN is both a threat and an opportunity for Cisco. On the one hand, SDN threatens Cisco's mainstay business -- selling proprietary hardware. On the other hand, software-defined networks will likely come in many different forms, including a Cisco flavor. The router giant sees a real opportunity in helping network operators (enterprise and telco) embrace SDN and NFV, supported by Cisco hardware, software and consulting services: Embrane provides some of the software smarts that are likely to attract the attention of network managers focused on flexibility in virtualized environments. (See Defining SDN & NFV.)
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