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Sonoa Gets iPhone Cred

It's not a direct lineage, but Fiberlane founder Raj Singh, formerly a kingpin of optical networking, has worked his way into mobile apps.

That's figuratively speaking. Sonoa Systems Inc. , the company Singh founded in 2004, announced yesterday that its API-accelerating technology is now supporting applications for mobile handsets. Singh is no longer CEO at Sonoa, but he's a board member, so it counts. (See Sonoa Speeds Mobile Apps and Headcount: Wrong Way Huawei.)

Old-school Light Reading homies will remember Singh's name well. Fiberlane was a late '90s optical networking company that split into Cerent, Cyras, and Siara, which got acquired by Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN), and Redback (now Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC)), respectively -- for billions of dollars in stock each time. (See Fiberlane Founder Finds Another Startup, Was Cerent Worth It?, Ciena To Buy Cyras for $2.6 Billion, and Redback Unveils Siara Product.)

From the get-go, Sonoa's technology included an XML-processing chip, which could be a handy tool in handling policy for network-based applications. By 2006, Sonoa was talking more about service-oriented architectures. (See Raj Singh Resurfaces and Sonoa Secures Round B.)

It's now well known that Sonoa is in the business of helping enterprises manage application programming interfaces (APIs). For instance, Sonoa helps make sure APIs don't get overwhelmed or bogged down by heavy volumes of requests. It's similar in spirit to the kind of Web acceleration that companies like Riverbed Technology Inc. (Nasdaq: RVBD) do.

About one third of Sonoa's customers are using the company's hardware appliances -- the business Sonoa first got into. Half of the customers use Sonoa in software form, as a virtual machine running on servers, says Scott Regan, vice president of marketing.

The rest (one sixth of the total, apparently) tap Sonoa's technology as a service that's running in places like the Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) from Amazon Web Services Inc. .

EC2 is the home of the Sonoa service that debuted yesterday, Mobile App Acceleration. It doesn't appear that Sonoa acronymizes it, but for our own amusement, we'll call it MAA.

"A lot of these applications need to reach across the network to a third-party API, or an API of the developer, and download large amounts of data," Regan says. "TV listings are incredibly dense. If you track how long one takes to load up, that's the kind of challenge these apps face."

MAA intervenes between the handset and the application's backend API, keeping the flow of data to a manageable pace ("pagination" is the word Sonoa uses). In turn, this lets the application add users more freely, because there's less danger of it getting paralyzed by a surge of activity. That MAA is cloud-based is key, because it's being targeted at application developers, promising them better performance on mobile handsets even as more users pile on. By contrast, Sonoa's regular API management is marketed to enterprises as an IT tool.

Of course, Sonoa says that original business is doing well, now boasting 70 customers, including MTV and MySpace.

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

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