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Ethernet equipment

Afore Aims for Data Centers

Software and services company Afore Solutions Inc. has come out with its first hardware platform, saying its Ethernet enhancements can be the basis of services that operate across multiple data centers.

The ASE3300, running what the company calls Accelerated Secure Ethernet, has already started shipping and is even in two live networks. (See Afore Optimizes WAN.)

Afore, you'll recall, is Jonathan Reeves's first attempt in a while at being involved in a company he didn't found. Reeves is well known to the Light Reading universe for Sahara Networks, Sirocco Systems, and Mangrove Systems. His real coup was the $2.9 billion sale of Sirocco to Sycamore Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: SCMR). (See Reeves Seeds Mangrove Systems and Jonathan Reeves Tries ATCA.)

Founded in 2003, Afore came out last year to introduce InterPort, a catch-all name for Ethernet-related software products and development services. (See Afore Announces InterPort and Afore Intros InterPort.) It's not your usual startup; Afore has taken no venture money and has been profitable since 2004, says Reeves (who's the startup's chairman and chief strategy officer, by the way).

One use of the ASE3300 would be in large enterprises, connecting one data center to another. But Afore also sees a possibility for carriers to become application hosts, running services that might reside in their own hubs but get implemented across a customer's multiple data centers.

As part of that play, Afore is pursuing the usual path of combining multiple functions into one box, specifically targeting areas like storage area networking extensions, or encryption.

But there's more to it than that. Afore has made some tweaks to improve the performance of Ethernet.

A technology called EtherCorrect, for instance, adds error-correcting packets to the data stream to allow for recovery of lost packets. TCP can already deal with lost packets -- but storage and virtualization applications don't use TCP, Reeves points out. "The net result is that if you lose a packet, you get degradation of the service," he says.

The additional packets don't slow things down because of a compression scheme Afore has developed, called EtherPack. The company claims it's used this technology to get gigabit throughputs on 100-Mbit/s connections.

Other features include the aforementioned SAN extension as well as AES-256 encryption.

Afore doesn't intend to sell the box itself. The idea is to offer it to other equipment vendors, which could then rebrand the box to suit their own whims. The reason is simple, Reeves says: A hardware startup doesn't have much hope of breaking in with large carriers or even large enterprises.

Afore claims to have one large OEM customer and one Tier 2 customer in hand, with announcements to come in a few weeks.

As for those live customer networks, Reeves says Afore's found its way into one financial customer, connecting brokerage houses in Asia. Another job is in Europe, where a service provider is using Afore to offer a disaster recovery service.

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 3:29:23 PM
re: Afore Aims for Data Centers This is completely different from WAN acceleration and doesn't do anything to address TCP proper... but then again, if it works as advertised, it could have a WAN-accelerating kind of effect. For Ethernet traffic, anyway.

Maybe I'm not thinking about it right, but that was my first impression.

I guess the bigger question is: Is it time for this mini-god-box approach for WAN?
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