Startup Launches With $9M to Bring SDN to WANs



There's a new virtualization startup on the scene, and this one is flush with $9 million in funding, a CEO with a pedigree from Cisco, announced customers, and an ambitious plan to virtualize the enterprise WAN.

CloudGenix emerged from "stealth mode" on Wednesday and announced it has secured $9 million in series A funding from Charles River Ventures and Mayfield Fund. The Santa Clara-based startup, led by former Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) executive Kumar Ramachandran, is pitching a way to extend SDN into enterprises' wide area networks. (See 5 Reasons Why You Need a Software-Defined Enterprise WAN.)

This is a big challenge for enterprises today. SDN vendors typically start at the data center and then struggle with how to extend SDN to the WAN, according to Heavy Reading analyst Caroline Chappell, who adds that a number of companies such as Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) spin-in Nuage Networks , Contrail Systems , and VMware Inc. (NYSE: VMW) are working to address the challenge as well. (See Alcatel-Lucent Spins Up Its SDN, Dell Builds Its Service Provider NFV Case, and UNVEILED! California's Hottest SDN Startup, Versa Networks.)

CloudGenix's pitch is that it can do this type of network abstraction specifically for the enterprise, where increasingly data centers are no longer the sole source of app delivery. It can support any networking technology, whether it be LTE, private WANs, or public Internet and whether it be in the data center or the WAN.

"It's not just talking about abstracting Layers 1-3 in the data center or the WAN, but both, and throwing in L4-7 services for good measure," Chappell tells Light Reading. Under the platform, CloudGenix Software-Defined Enterprise WAN, or SDEwan, the Layer 4-7 services are decoupled from location and selective functions provided by those services are disaggregated.

This, Ramachandran explains, means the services can be located optimally based on costs and traffic patterns and enterprises can rapidly deploy new bandwidth-intensive, cloud-based apps to their remote offices, while maintaining compliance with their IT departments.

"We move from multiple device, multiple software solutions to lightweight software that goes into a remote office, and the apps on our SDN controller deliver the functions from the server," he says. "Routing, matching apps to users, goes away completely."

As Chappell explains it, CloudGenix has essentially created a massive network abstraction layer that will be controlled by policies, and the abstraction layer will take care of implementing those policies in whatever equipment and wherever in the network they need to be.

CloudGenix say it's agnostic to the underlay vendors in the WAN and can talk traditional protocols as required. Chappell says it represents a huge simplification of network management for enterprise customers, but she says she'd be surprised if they can abstract away from every piece of vendor equipment at every layer of the network from day one.

"For the enterprise WAN problem set that we are solving, our design enables the overlay and existing WAN network to coexist, especially given that customer may have mixed networks during transitions," Ramachandran explains.

SDEwan is "pre-product" right now and will go into beta soon, but CloudGenix has already signed up brands including Columbia Sportswear Company and Coca-Cola to work with it, and is in talks with service providers about partnering to target enterprises with remote offices.

"The team we've put together looks like a traditional networking team, but we think networking is changing," Ramachandran says. "You need the Cisco/Juniper DNA, but you very much need to bring it into the network arena with web-scale app development. It's more about software than hardware. It transforms the business language."

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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