& cplSiteName &

CPacket Touts Distributed DPI

Craig Matsumoto
News Analysis
Craig Matsumoto

A little-known startup is taking on the deep packet inspection (DPI) world with a chip that, it claims, could make high-end inspection cheap and fast enough to distribute throughout the network.

cPacket Networks Inc. already sells Gigabit Ethernet products, but its real pride and joy is a 20-Gbit/s chip launched this week, just in time for the Interop tradeshow. (See CPacket Targets DPI.)

In the long run, founder and CEO Rony Kay sees distributed DPI as a function of networks that are self-regulating, like biological entities (preferably ones that don't ooze anything).

But that's a long, long way off. For now, cPacket is happy just to sell its chips out of a spartan Mountain View, Calif., office that houses most of the company's 22 employees.

Things weren't even this luxurious at the start. Kay started cPacket in his bedroom in 2003 after quitting his job as a middle manager in the enterprise platform group at Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC). First employee Matt Rosenthal (now senior R&D engineer, and pictured in the mini-slide show linked above) drove from Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh to join Kay's non-army just before Christmas of that year.

It's a familiar kind of Silicon Valley startup tale. Kay had come up with his idea for distributed packet inspection while at Intel, but amid a brutal telecom downturn, he couldn't get an audience.

"People were afraid to take radical and aggressive approaches like this," he says. Kay recalls the approach being called "megalomaniacal."

So he quit to try startup life. Given the tough economy, he says he didn't even bother pitching to venture capitalists.

Entrepreneurship turned out to be riskier than Kay had expected. "I didn't know Intel stock would continue to go down," he says. (Intel shares reached a relative peak in January 2004 and haven't gotten back there since.)

CPacket still hasn't tapped venture capital, having gotten by on angel funding and money from one software vendor that wasn't given a seat on the board. Kay won't reveal the total amount, saying only that it's "not as much as you would think."

Kay's prized idea was to craft a new pattern-matching algorithm to examine every byte of every packet, like an assembly line, at tremendous speed –- 20 Gbit/s now, and 100 Gbit/s later, Kay claims.

Then, cPacket built a chip that runs this algorithm in hardware. Running something in hardware can make it go faster than the software alternative (which involves programming the software onto a microprocessor). And the algorithm's assembly-line nature means each packet takes a predictable amount of time to examine.

Kay calls the process "complete packet inspection," because it dissects the entire packet. He says deep packet inspection, by contrast, tends to look at just the packet payload, not necessarily doing header classification.

CPacket is a chip company at heart, but the startup also offers software tools for telling the chip which strings to look for –- specific URLs, or virus-like markers, for instance, or maybe particular types of traffic, such as peer-to-peer (P2P) streams. Then, the chip can take actions such as dropping certain packets or forwarding them into quarantine areas.

Potential customers (or competitors) doing DPI aren't yet sure what to make of cPacket. Until this week, the startup's Website only mentioned Gigabit Ethernet products -- not exactly a threat to the likes of Allot Communications Ltd. (Nasdaq: ALLT), Ellacoya Networks Inc. , Sandvine Inc. (London: SAND; Toronto: SVC), and Procera Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: PKT).

Ellacoya uses similar packet-processing chips in its own boxes, but says the equipment's real selling points revolve around factors such as carrier-grade reliability. Sturdy analysis of traffic is necessary, too, says Fred Sammartino, Ellacoya's vice president of marketing and product management. For example, some types of traffic can't be discovered without examining the back-and-forth exchange of packets in a particular session, he says.

"That type of shallow packet inspection, just looking at the bits, is just a small component of the system we provide," Sammartino adds.

Moreover, the software side of packet inspection has to be in constant flux. CPacket can show that its software rules are easily changeable, but the number of changes required could get hefty, especially when chasing down worms or viruses designed to mutate and avoid detection. "The nature of dealing with evasive applications is that it's very dynamic," says Tom Donnelly, executive vice president of marketing for Sandvine.

While cPacket wants to be a chip play, possibly selling to other DPI vendors, it's providing some customers with a small system, one rack unit high. That box is intended to be cPacket's reference design, but it's also the easiest way to get some carriers to try the technology.

The 20-Gbit/s chip and its reference design are already shipping, joining the Gigabit Ethernet products that have been cPacket's main source of revenues.

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

(0)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
Light Reading’s Upskill U is a FREE, interactive, online educational resource that delivers must-have education on themes that relate to the overall business transformation taking place in the communications industry.
Wednesday, October 26, 1:00PM EDT
Security: Tackling DDoS
Gary Sockrider, Principal Security Technologist, Arbor Networks
Friday, October 28, 1:00PM EDT
Security: The Plusses and Minuses of Open Source Software
Nick Feamster, Acting Director, Center for Information Technology Policy, Princeton University
Wednesday, November 16, 1:00PM EST
SDN 101
John Isch, Practice Director, Network & Voice, Orange Business Services
Friday, November 18, 1:00PM EST
SDN & Open Source
Christopher W. Rice, Senior Vice President of AT&T Labs, Domain 2.0 Architecture and Design
in association with:
From The Founder
Light Reading today starts a new voyage as part of a larger Enterprise.
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 Custom TV
Next-Generation Technology Beyond DOCSIS 3.1

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

At SCTE 2016, Huawei's Liu Jianhua speaks with Alan Breznick for an exclusive interview.
LRTV Custom TV
Hybrid Video Solutions to Change TV, Change Future

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

At SCTE 2016, Huawei's Ian Locke speaks with Alan Breznick for an exclusive interview.
LRTV Custom TV
Huawei Future-Oriented Giga Coax Network

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

At SCTE 2016, Huawei's Allen Wang speaks with Alan Breznick for an exclusive interview.
LRTV Custom TV
Huawei at SCTE 2016

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

Join Alan Breznick of Light Reading and take a sneak peek at the Huawei booth at SCTE 2016.
LRTV Custom TV
Assuring Network Quality in a Rapidly Changing Environment

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

As the rate of change and complexity increases in agile networks, the importance of introducing DevOps methodologies for integrating active test and assurance solutions throughout the full service lifecycle becomes critical to ensure that customers are experiencing the service quality they demand. The industry landscape is changing, and software-based test and ...
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
A10 Networks on Service Providers' Industry Needs

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

Light Reading's Steve Saunders hears how A10 enables service providers to accelerate, secure and optimize their application delivery to drive down costs, enhance service availability, and better respond to customer requirements, so they can improve customer satisfaction, monetize their network, and grow revenues.
LRTV Custom TV
New NFV Use Cases for Cable TV

10|19|16   |     |   (0) comments

A large number of NFV use cases are focused on the enterprise domain, looking at virtualization of customer-premises equipment (CPE). To date, there has been little focus on the use cases and business case for virtualization of the video content delivery networks required to deliver unicast and streaming video to consumers. Amdocs commissioned Analysys Mason to ...
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Meet the Future Workforce: New Faces, Expectations & Motivations

10|19|16   |   5:33   |   (1) comment

Millennials and their younger peers, Gen Z, expect more out of their network and more out of their work. Intel's Lynn Comp shares how the industry can prepare for this new generation of workers.
LRTV Custom TV
ZTE Global Services User Congress 2016 Highlights

10|19|16   |     |   (0) comments

ZTE held its 2nd Global Service User Conference in Dusseldorf on October 13-14. Representatives from network operators, leading industry analysts and ZTE senior expertsattended the event, exploring the best practice in managed services and the vision to transform network operations into the operations center of the future (OpCF) in the software-defined networking ...
LRTV Custom TV
Cliff Grossner on Cloud & Network Synergy From Carrier Service

10|18|16   |     |   (0) comments

Local carriers offer the collaborated cloud and network service that benefits from their understanding of the regulations operating in different vertical markets.
In this interview, Cliff Grossner from IHS Technology talks about how this advanced service can support business agility and flexibility.
LRTV Custom TV
VeEX: Live from SCTE Cable-Tec Expo 2016

10|17|16   |     |   (0) comments

Cyrille Morelle, VeEX's President and CEO, talks with Light Reading's Alan Breznick live from the SCTE Cable-Tec Expo 2016. They discuss DOCSIS 3.1 technology, deployments and early lessons learned. New products on display include the CX350s-D3.1, CX380s-D3.1, CX310, AT2500-3G, FX150 OTDR and MTT WiFI Air Expert.
LRTV Custom TV
Smith Micro's Carrier-Grade WiFi Component

10|17|16   |     |   (0) comments

Join Carol Wilson of Light Reading as she interviews the CTO of Smith Micro, Dave Sperling.
Upcoming Live Events
November 3, 2016, The Montcalm Marble Arch, London
November 30, 2016, The Westin Times Square, New York City
December 1, 2016, The Westin Times Square, New York, NY
December 6-8, 2016, The Westin Excelsior, Rome
May 16-17, 2017, Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
All Upcoming Live Events
Hot Topics
Attacks Have Major Internet Sites on the Ropes
Brian Santo, Senior editor, Test & Measurement / Components, Light Reading, 10/21/2016
Verizon Wants More Data on Yahoo Breach
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading, 10/20/2016
WiCipedia: Grace Hopper Promotes Diversity, Girl Scouts Code & How to Thrive
Eryn Leavens, Special Features & Copy Editor, 10/21/2016
Layer3 TV Comes to Town, Hints at Future
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 10/21/2016
Telecom Italia Plots Digital 'Overlay,' Not Transformation
Iain Morris, News Editor, 10/17/2016
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Join us for an in-depth interview between Steve Saunders of Light Reading and Alexis Black Bjorlin of Intel as they discuss the release of the company's Silicon Photonics platform, its performance, long-term prospects, customer expectations and much more.
There's no question that, come 2020, 5G technology will turn the world's conception of what mobile networking is on its head. Within the world of 5G development, Dr. ...
Animals with Phones
Live Digital Audio

A vital part of increasing the number of women in comms is transforming the ways companies can support and empower women. While progressive company policies that support both men and women in achieving work-life balance are a step in the right direction, creating a company culture that supports those policies can at times be more challenging.

During this show, we'll talk to Lynn Comp, Senior Director of Industry and Sales Enabling (ISE) in the Network Platforms Group at Intel, about why those challenges exist and how companies can overcome them. She'll provide insight into how Intel has worked to create a culture that supports work-life balance, and provide steps and guidance for other companies wishing to do the same. We will also leave plenty of time to get your questions answered live on the air.