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
Wagner’s Ring
Data Centers Drive Telcos Into the Future

8|28|14   |   2:20   |   (2) comments


Data centers are at the heart of key trends driving telecom -- network virtualization, the drive for increased agility, and the need to compete with OTT providers.
LRTV Custom TV
Why SPs Should Consider Cisco's EPN

8|27|14   |   5:40   |   (0) comments


Sultan Dawood from Cisco discusses Cisco's EPN, which enables SPs to build agile and programmable networks delivering new network virtualized services using Cisco's Evolved Services Platform (ESP).
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei’s Showcase @ Big Telecom Event 2014

8|26|14   |   2.56   |   (0) comments


SoftCOM is Huawei's framework for telecom business and network transformation. Haofei Liu, Solution Marketing Manager, Carrier Business Group, Huawei, showcases Huawei's SoftCOM architecture in this video.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei @ BTE 2014: Director of Integrated Solutions on SoftCOM & NFV Monetization

8|26|14   |   4.43   |   (0) comments


Libin Dai, Director of Integrated Solutions, Carrier Business Group, discusses Huawei's SoftCOM and NFV monetization. Huawei believes that NFV monetization should be service-driven rather than network-driven, and that operators should have network transformation, service transformation and a compatible and collaborative ecosystem in place in order to deploy NFV.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei @ BTE 2014: Director of US NFV Lab on CloudEdge & the Future of NFV

8|26|14   |   4.06   |   (0) comments


Sean Chen, Director of US NFV Lab at Huawei, discusses Huawei's new approach to NFV in open collaboration. Huawei believes that through Proof of Concept tests, it could help operators learn and communicate with the industry more effectively. Sean believes that successful implementation of NFV should have its values reaching to end users and discusses how Huawei's ...
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei's Highlights @ Big Telecom Event 2014

8|26|14   |   3.34   |   (0) comments


At the Big Telecom Event in Chicago Huawei showcases its high-level strategy, the SoftCOM architecture, which helps operators reduce the cost of ownership of their network infrastructure and generate additional revenue in the ICT service environment. Huawei showcases over 30 pilot programs from across the globe, focusing on the industry-leading commercial ...
LRTV Custom TV
VeEX – Live from the Show

8|21|14   |   5:58   |   (0) comments


An overview of VeEX Test and Measurement solutions including TX300S multi-service test set with VeExpress cloud-based management system, UX400 universal modular platform supporting 100G testing, and the redesigned RXT modular platform.
LRTV Custom TV
Transitioning CE 2.0 Networks Into the SDN & NFV Era With Telco Systems

8|19|14   |   5:19   |   (0) comments


Telco Systems' Ariel Efrati (CEO) and Moshe Shimon (VP of Product Management) discuss virtualization and how the company's new Open Metro Edge solution utilizes the SDN and NFV concepts to accelerate and orchestrate service delivery through its innovative product portfolio and software applications.
LRTV Custom TV
NFV Myths: Is NFV Still Several Years Away?

8|11|14   |   1:13   |   (0) comments


Some say that NFV (network functions virtualization) is still several years away from being implemented on mobile operator networks. This isn't the case. Operators can get started on their paths to NFV now, as this short video from Skyfire shows.
LRTV Custom TV
A New Security Paradigm in SDN/NFV

7|28|14   |   02:54   |   (0) comments


Paul Shaneck, Global Director Network Solutions for Symantec, discusses the evolving virtualized network, explaining how Symantec is leading the security discussion as it relates to SDN and NFV, and helping to ensure the network is protected and compliant.
LRTV Documentaries
Sprint's Network Evolution

7|24|14   |   14:59   |   (0) comments


Sprint's Jay Bluhm gives a keynote speech at the Big Telecom Event (BTE) about Sprint's network and services evolution strategy, including Spark.
LRTV Documentaries
BTE Keynote: The Software-Defined Operator

7|24|14   |   18:43   |   (1) comment


Deutsche Telekom's Axel Clauberg explains the concept of the software-defined operator to the Big Telecom Event (BTE) crowd.
Upcoming Live Events!!
September 16, 2014, Santa Clara, CA
September 16, 2014, Santa Clara, CA
September 23, 2014, Denver, CO
October 29, 2014, New York City
November 6, 2014, Santa Clara
November 11, 2014, Atlanta, GA
December 9-10, 2014, Reykjavik, Iceland
June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
Infographics
A survey conducted by Vasona Networks suggests that 72% of mobile users expect good performance all the time, and they'll blame the network operator when it's not up to par.
Today's Cartoon
Hot Topics
Rogers, Shaw Take Aim at Netflix
Mari Silbey, Independent Technology Editor, 8/26/2014
Utilities to Pump $11.2B Into Smart Grid – Study
Jason Meyers, Senior Editor, Utility Communications/IoT, 8/26/2014
Verizon Launches QR Code Security Solution
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 8/26/2014
Nokia's Maps Land on Samsung Devices
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 8/29/2014
Verizon to Launch HD VoLTE in 'Coming Weeks'
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 8/26/2014
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed