Light Reading
A shoestring startup claims its chip could let deep packet inspection become a fixture in more parts of the network

CPacket Touts Distributed DPI

Craig Matsumoto
News Analysis
Craig Matsumoto
5/18/2007
50%
50%

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
Flash Poll
From The Founder
Is your network built on 'The Old IP,' or are you part of 'The New IP' revolution?
LRTV Documentaries
A Cultural Shift for an OTT World

9|26|14   |   01:41   |   (3) comments


Telcos need to embrace a new approach to partnerships if they are to generate extra revenues quickly and give customers what they want.
LRTV Documentaries
New Skills Needed as Telecom, IT Collide

9|26|14   |   4:07   |   (1) comment


As telecom and IT collide, new technologies are emerging, new skills are needed and new opportunities for women are arising.
UBB Forum News
Do IP Networks Need An Overhaul?

9|25|14   |   02:01   |   (0) comments


As traffic levels ramp, do IP networks need new technologies and topologies?
LRTV Documentaries
Sprint Wields Its Influence in the Valley

9|25|14   |   3:09   |   (11) comments


Anne-Louise Kardas, Sprint's connection to startups in the Valley, explains how telcos can be innovative and find new opportunities with partners.
LRTV Documentaries
SDN, NFV & The Future of XO's Network

9|25|14   |   3:47   |   (1) comment


XO Communications COO Don MacNeil explains how cloud, SDN and NFV are altering its network requirements as well as changing data centers of the future.
UBB Forum News
The OTT Conundrum

9|24|14   |   01:39   |   (0) comments


What is holding back prosperous partnerships between telcos and the OTT players?
LRTV Documentaries
Putting Broadband to Work

9|24|14   |   01:26   |   (0) comments


High-speed broadband network rollout is key to telco strategies, but it's what happens after the network is built that counts.
Light Reedy
Light Reading's Women in Telecom Recap

9|24|14   |   0:55   |   (4) comments


Our first Women in Telecom breakfast was a huge success, and we hope you'll join us in London for the next event on November 6.
UBB Forum News
Monetizing Ultra-Broadband

9|24|14   |   01:43   |   (2) comments


Ultra-broadband networks need to be built, with fiber-to-the-premises the ultimate goal, but they need to be monetized, too.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Sales Director of INIT on Plug & Play Switch Devices

9|19|14   |   3:21   |   (0) comments


INIT Italy uses both the Huawei S5700 and S7700 series switches for the campus LAN environment. Sales Director Andrea Curti says their company chose these Huawei devices over others because of their performance, flexible scalability and plug-and-play features.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Saudi Arabia Upgrades Vocational Training System

9|19|14   |   3:31   |   (0) comments


The Technical and Vocational Training Corporation (TVTC) has 100,000 students, 150 government-owned institutions and oversees 1000 private institutes. The CIO of TVTC explains that Huawei devices have allowed them to manage multiple datacenters using just one software program, scientifically tracking the progress of students and teachers, saving them millions.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei's Media Solutions Are Here to Stay

9|19|14   |   4:35   |   (0) comments


The current media revolution requires rapid upgrades in technology. New formats (HD, 3D, 4K etc.) and the subsequent explosion of file sizes demand sophisticated network and storage architecture. Social media and the multiple distribution channels require a robust asset management system. Gartner analyst Venecia Liu speaks about the current technological trends in ...
Upcoming Live Events
October 29, 2014, New York City
November 6, 2014, Santa Clara
November 11, 2014, Atlanta, GA
December 2, 2014, New York City
December 3, 2014, New York City
December 9-10, 2014, Reykjavik, Iceland
June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
Infographics
Half of the world's population will be connected to the Internet by 2017, but not just by smartphones and desktops.
Hot Topics
Facebook Pokes Around LTE Direct
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 9/25/2014
Is Redbox Instant Shutting Down?
Mari Silbey, Independent Technology Editor, 9/30/2014
Sprint Wields Its Influence in the Valley
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 9/25/2014
US Ignite Cultivates Gigabit Apps
Jason Meyers, Senior Editor, Utility Communications/IoT, 9/25/2014
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed