& cplSiteName &

Startup NFWare Takes Aim at Cisco, Juniper

Iain Morris
2/3/2016
67%
33%

NFWare has only ten employees and was just a twinkle in the eye of founder Alexander Britkin around two years ago. But last year, the NFV startup found itself going head to head with equipment behemoths including Cisco, Huawei and Juniper for a slice of a networks deal with Rostelecom, Russia's biggest long-distance telecom operator. "To my knowledge, we were the only virtualized vendor that was allowed to play in the field," Britkin tells Light Reading.

With headquarters in Germany and an R&D presence in Russia, NFWare belongs to a new breed of software vendors that are looking to capitalize on growing interest in virtualization among telecom operators. By turning network functions into software programs, and running them on cheap servers instead of specialized hardware gear, operators hope to slash their costs and develop a service agility they have previously lacked, making the transition to New IP networks.

While players like Affirmed Networks Inc. and Versa Networks are chasing virtualization opportunities in the EPC and SD-WAN markets, NFWare is specifically targeting high-performance IP routing -- a business that is currently dominated by the likes of Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR). It claims to have developed software that can process traffic at speeds of around 200 Gbit/s. "That is exceptional today in the market," says Britkin. (See NFV Made IoT Profitable for STC, Says Affirmed and Startup Versa Announces 'Carrier-Grade' Multi-Tenant NFV Platform.)

Others clearly see promise in the startup's offerings. NFWare has already raised a "six-digit" amount in funding from investors including Telefónica , Spain's incumbent operator. The company's non-financial support is already opening a lot of doors for NFWare, says Britkin. Moreover, its advisory board includes Dor Skuler, who founded CloudBand, Alcatel-Lucent's NFV orchestration business, before leaving Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) (now a part of Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK)) at the end of 2014. (See AlcaLu Losing Key NFV Exec.)

NFWare is about to announce a second funding round, Britkin tells Light Reading, while it continues to work on its product portfolio. Currently, this includes carrier-grade NAT and load balancing functions, but the company plans to develop the load balancing product into a "fully fledged" application delivery controller. The ultimate goal, says Britkin, is "to commoditize all IP routing -- so all core routers and edge routers."

Additional funding should also help NFWare stay afloat while it builds a revenue-generating business. The startup began commercial deployments with small operators in Spain and Italy last year and is also carrying out projects with a number of Tier 1 players, including Telefónica and Rostelecom . Both have been conducting lab trials of NFWare technology and Britkin is hopeful of starting a field deployment with the Russian service provider in the next two months.

But are the world's biggest operators ready to entrust new players with a major commercial rollout of NFV technology? "These startups are not just good at doing trials and PoCs [proof of concepts] -- when they have good products there is no issue to have that deployed in operational networks," says Yves Bellego, the director of technical strategy for French telecom incumbent Orange (NYSE: FTE), when asked that question. Britkin reports similarly positive feedback from his own discussions with prospective clients.


For more NFV-related coverage and insights, check out our dedicated NFV content channel here on Light Reading.


Nevertheless, there is evidently some concern that a ten-person company will be able to provide the necessary level of support. NFWare has been getting around that problem by joining forces with systems integrators in specific markets, particularly when targeting smaller service providers. It is also willing to partner with big vendors on some accounts if there is no overlap between product portfolios.

One of NFWare's key attractions may also be a short-term barrier to sales. Unlike its more traditional rivals, it is selling its software products on a pay-per-use basis, meaning customers do not have to make huge capital expenditure investments on hardware they may need only occasionally. "Not all customers are ready for that type of model," concedes Britkin.

Perhaps the biggest question hovering over NFWare is whether it can survive as the big guns focus their sights on virtualization, but Britkin is sanguine. "First, I think they will try to sell hardware for as long as they can and that gives us a couple of years to get to the market," he says. "Operators don't want a mono-vendor of networks -- they want solutions from different vendors -- and I'm not sure if big companies are that open."

On top of that, NFWare's technology smarts certainly appear impressive. Most of its engineers came from Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC), the semiconductor giant, and operators are regularly taken aback when they see the software in action, claims Britkin. "Because we are just ten people, they think we will be able to support about 2 Gbit/s before crashing," he says. "When we show them 120 Gbit/s they are pretty surprised."

Could these capabilities, and the threat NFWare might pose to the established order, make the startup a takeover target for Cisco or Juniper? "Potentially, yes. I don't know their agenda," says Britkin. But he believes his organization occupies a fairly unique space in the NFV landscape, with its particular focus on high-throughput applications. With field deployments in the offing, that could make NFWare both a disruptive force and an enticing prospect.

— Iain Morris, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, News Editor, Light Reading

(2)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Oldest First  |  Newest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
Vishnu Goel
50%
50%
Vishnu Goel,
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/4/2016 | 1:39:15 AM
NFWare should aim to be Disrupter not a temptress,
Ian, looks like we have a network element new ambitious kid in the street now.I think the time is right to be a challenger to the established companies,and NFWare probably can ride the wave in Asia.Vishnu Goel T&M+919810101238
danielcawrey
50%
50%
danielcawrey,
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/4/2016 | 1:13:52 PM
Re: NFWare should aim to be Disrupter not a temptress,
Integrators are going to be key to this company's success. And that's going to take a lot of work to pull off. But it can be done with a lot of meetings and dealings. If this is the way they have to do it, then more power to them. They are going to need the support of managed service providers and integrators to compete with the big boys. 
From The Founder
Following a recent board meeting, the New IP Agency (NIA) has a new strategy to help accelerate the adoption of NFV capabilities, explains the Agency's Founder and Secretary, Steve Saunders.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
Charting the CSP's Future
Six different communications service providers join to debate their visions of the future CSP, following a landmark presentation from AT&T on its massive virtualization efforts and a look back on where the telecom industry has been and where it's going from two industry veterans.
LRTV Interviews
AT&T: Creating Dynamic Networks to Meet Business Needs

5|26|17   |   4:24   |   (0) comments


As enterprises need more dynamic networks, service providers need to deliver on-demand, virtual services to meet those needs. AT&T is creating a networking fabric to mix-and-match SDN technologies for enterprise customers, says Roman Pacewicz, AT&T senior vice president for offer management and service integration, in an interview at Light Reading's
LRTV Interviews
EdgeConneX on Industry Headwinds & Tailwinds

5|26|17   |   2:41   |   (0) comments


At Light Reading's Big Communications Event 2017, EdgeConneX CTO Don MacNeil discussed the value of partnerships in the digital world.
LRTV Documentaries
4 Steps Toward a Higher Network IQ

5|26|17   |     |   (0) comments


At the Big Communications Event in Austin, Texas, EXFO CEO Philippe Morin explains how sensors and analytics can boost a network's intelligence and enable on-demand customer experiences. Find more BCE 2017 coverage here.
LRTV Interviews
BT's McRae Sheds Light on 4K Strategy

5|25|17   |   4:45   |   (0) comments


At Light Reading's Big Communications Event 2017 in Austin, Texas, BT Group's Chief Network Architect Neil McRae talks about what it took for BT to broadcast live sports in 4K. Catch up with all our BCE coverage at http://www.lightreading.com/bce.asp.
From the Founder
How the NIA Aims to Advance NFV

5|25|17   |   08:07   |   (1) comment


Following a recent board meeting, the New IP Agency (NIA) has a new strategy to help accelerate the adoption of NFV capabilities, explains the Agency's Founder and Secretary, Steve Saunders.
LRTV Custom TV
Better Solutions That Address Growing Scale

5|25|17   |     |   (0) comments


For Comcast, the X1 rollout and 17-fold increases in broadband speeds in the past 16 years are among factors driving the need for Energy 2020 solutions that reduce cost and consumption, says Mark Hess.
LRTV Custom TV
Ethernity Network Delivers Instant Offloading of Network Functions With All-Programmable Intelligent NIC

5|25|17   |     |   (0) comments


David Levi, CEO of Ethernity Networks, explains that programmability of the hardware makes the company's All-Programmable Intelligent NIC uniquely beneficial for communications service providers that need advanced data appliances with agile support of virtualization. Utilizing the company's patented network processing technology, Ethernity offers data path ...
LRTV Documentaries
BCE 2017: Vodafone Gets Obsessed With Cloud-Native

5|25|17   |     |   (0) comments


Vodafone's Matt Beal updates us on Project Ocean and explains why simple virtualization isn't enough of a goal for network transformation. Catch up with other BCE 2017 keynotes and news at http://www.lightreading.com/bce.asp.
LRTV Documentaries
BCE 2017: Intel's Take on Network Transformation

5|24|17   |     |   (0) comments


In this BCE 2017 keynote, Lynn Comp discusses Intel's vision for areas such as analytics, automation and service assurance. For more videos and BCE coverage, see http://www.lightreading.com/bce.asp.
LRTV Documentaries
Order From Chaos: The Steve Saunders BCE Keynote

5|24|17   |   17:27   |   (0) comments


Kicking off BCE 2017, Light Reading founder Steve Saunders lays blame for NFV's slow ramp-up and urges telecom to return to old-fashioned standards building and interoperability testing.
Think of this as the video sequel to the recent columns he's written about NFV and the prospect of a telecom app store. (See

LRTV Documentaries
Service Provider Panel: Partnering in the Digital Era

5|22|17   |     |   (0) comments


Coopetition has always been part of telecom, but the ecosphere now includes data centers, vendors, apps developers, cloud service providers and Internet content providers. This BCE 2017 panel explores the new attitudes among network operators as to the value and variety of ...
LRTV Interviews
Site Demo: AT&T's IoT Flow Platform

5|19|17   |   04:25   |   (0) comments


At AT&T's R&D center in Tel Aviv, Israel, project leader Eyal Segev talks about the operator's Flow platform and how it helps to prototype IoT applications.
Infographics
With the mobile ecosystem becoming increasingly vulnerable to security threats, AdaptiveMobile has laid out some of the key considerations for the wireless community.
Hot Topics
Cities Clamor for More Clout at FCC
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 5/23/2017
What's Blocking 4K TV Today
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading, 5/22/2017
Sonus & Genband Finally Combine to Form $745M Company
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 5/23/2017
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
One of the nice bits of my job (other than the teeny tiny salary, obviously) is that I get to pick and choose who I interview for this slot on the Light Reading home ...
TEOCO Founder and CEO Atul Jain talks to Light Reading Founder and CEO Steve Saunders about the challenges around cost control and service monetization in the mobile and IoT sectors.
Animals with Phones
What Brogrammers Look Like to the Rest of Us Click Here
Live Digital Audio

Playing it safe can only get you so far. Sometimes the biggest bets have the biggest payouts, and that is true in your career as well. For this radio show, Caroline Chan, general manager of the 5G Infrastructure Division of the Network Platform Group at Intel, will share her own personal story of how she successfully took big bets to build a successful career, as well as offer advice on how you can do the same. We’ll cover everything from how to overcome fear and manage risk, how to be prepared for where technology is going in the future and how to structure your career in a way to ensure you keep progressing. Chan, a seasoned telecom veteran and effective risk taker herself, will also leave plenty of time to answer all your questions live on the air.