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
It's clear to me that the communications industry is divided into two types of people, and only one is living in the real world.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Interview With Rick Talbot, Principal Analyst, Current Analysis

10|31|14   |   2:12   |   (0) comments


At the NFV Open Cloud Forum 2014, Rick Talbot shared his positive feedback about the holistic and open approach that Huawei adopts for SDN and NFV. He also found the open sharing at the event valuable as it features different perspectives from Huawei experts, telecom operators, industry analysts as well as security experts.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Interview With David Snow, Principal Analyst, Current Analysis

10|31|14   |   2:24   |   (0) comments


David Snow talked about his understanding of Huawei and its SoftCOM strategy at the NFV Open Cloud Forum 2014, saying that Huawei's wide approach combining IT and CT expertise, introducing big data and analytics into solutions and contributing to the OpenStack community particularly resonate with him and make the company stand out in the industry.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Interview With Roz Roseboro, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading

10|31|14   |   3:13   |   (0) comments


Roz Roseboro commented on Huawei's data center capabilities and NFV solutions at the NFV Open Cloud Forum 2014, saying that in addition to covering all three key domains of compute, storage and networking, the company also emphasizes the importance of management capabilities and professional services, which are essential in making NFV a reality.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Interview With Michael Howard, Co-founder & Principal Analyst, Infonetics Research

10|31|14   |   5:25   |   (0) comments


Michael Howard talked about SDN, NFV, and OpenStack adoption at Huawei's NFV Open Cloud Forum 2014. Particularly, he pointed out that Virtual Enterprise CPE is the top NFV use case that operators plan to invest in over 2014 and 2015 to deliver new enterprise services through virtualized functions.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Interview With Jerry Caron, Senior Vice President, Current Analysis

10|31|14   |   3:11   |   (0) comments


At Huawei's NFV Open Cloud Forum 2014, Jerry Caron from Current Analysis said that orchestration and management are key to realizing SDN and NFV for global carriers, and the approach that Huawei is taking, with its FusionSphere Cloud OS at the core, is in the right direction to address the challenges.
LRTV Documentaries
Broadband Battles

10|31|14   |   01:39   |   (0) comments


This year's Broadband World Forum featured a number of show floor battles focused on access gear, components and coffee.
Jonestown
Mobile Backhaul: Going to the Dark Side?

10|30|14   |   2:26   |   (1) comment


Heavy Reading's Patrick Donegan shares his view on a dark trend that bubbled up at Light Reading's annual backhaul conference in NYC.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
2014 Huawei Electric Power Industry Summit: Interview With CEO of SwitchCom

10|30|14   |   4:13   |   (0) comments


SwitchCom, an IT company based in Angola, recommends a variety of Huawei solutions and hardware to their customers in the energy industry.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
2014 Huawei Electric Power Industry Summit: Interview With Ethiopia's Ministry of Water Irrigation & Energy

10|30|14   |   4:08   |   (0) comments


Gosaye Mengistie of Ethiopia's Ministry of Water Irrigation & Energy discusses the collaboration with Huawei in that country.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
2014 Huawei Electric Power Industry Summit: Interview with Dongfang Electronics Corporation

10|30|14   |   5:46   |   (0) comments


Dongfang Electronics Corporation, headquartered in Chengdu, China, is one of China's largest manufacturers of power generators and contractors of power station projects.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
2014 Huawei Electric Power Industry Summit: Interview with Zimbabwe's Customers

10|30|14   |   3:31   |   (0) comments


Representatives of Zimbabwe's Ministry of Power and Development discuss the energy needs of their country as well as new areas of improvement due to enhanced ICT capabilities.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
2014 Huawei Electric Power Industry Summit: Interview With Colbún Chile

10|30|14   |   4:29   |   (0) comments


In Chile, an aging energy infrastructure was in dire need of a modern update. Claudio Valenzuela of Colbún discusses how Huawei's ICT solutions continue to provide crucial information to improve the grid and how an in-country engineer is a cricial asset.
Upcoming Live Events
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
February 10, 2015, Atlanta, GA
May 6, 2015, McCormick Convention Center, Chicago, IL
May 30, 2015, The Westin Peachtree, Atlanta, GA
June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
Infographics
WhoIsHostingThis.com presents six of the world's most extreme WiFi hotspots, enabling the most epic selfies you can imagine.
Hot Topics
Microsoft's Skype Embraces WebRTC on IE
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 10/27/2014
FTC Slaps AT&T With Throttling Lawsuit
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 10/28/2014
Wheeler Gets Down With OTT
Mari Silbey, Independent Technology Editor, 10/29/2014
China's MVNOs Hit the Wall
Robert Clark, 10/27/2014
Let's Not Kill SDN & NFV With Silos
Francois Locoh-Donou, Senior VP, Global Products Group, Ciena, 10/28/2014
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed