Stoke Says It's in Session
Startup Stoke Inc. is sneaking out into the market, as the company has shipped a session management device for carrier networks and claims to have its first revenue-producing customer, Light Reading has learned.
The product's called the SSX-3000, which Stoke likes to call a platform for the "service edge" that will eventually be able to support users roaming from wirelines to wireless networks while accessing a variety of applications, including voice, multimedia, and data. Stoke says its first customer is a Tier 1 carrier in Asia that is using the SSX-3000 to secure and manage IP video service sessions over an FTTN network.
Though the full details of the product have not been released, the initial permutation of the SSX-3000 can manage up to 256,000 sessions with 16 gigabits of aggregate throughput, and the box does IPSec encryption, according to Stoke officials. One linecard will carry four 1Gbit/s Ethernet ports. The company shared this information exclusively in a Light Reading visit to the company's new headquarters.
Stoke's investors include Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Sequoia Capital . The startup has collected $30 million in venture funding so far and has drawn some top Valley talent, including former Procket CEO Randall Kruepp and former Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) engineer Pete Wexler. (See Stoke Uncloaks.)
The product shipment comes at a good time, as some Silicon Valley chatter had the company recently struggling. One source told Light Reading that the company may have recently retooled its product portfolio after realizing its ambitious track to supply a fixed/mobile convergence (FMC) product for numerous applications might take too long. The initial customer for the SSX-3000 is deploying the product to manage video service, rather than FMC, say Stoke officials.
Stoke's spin is it will start shipping the product to customers for specific applications while it waits for the FMC market to evolve. Company officials say that traditional session management products for wireline and wireless networks won't be able to handle the scale and flexibility required by next-generation converged fixed and mobile networks.
"We had extensive talks with carriers, and they had all these legacy systems but they are rolling out an IP core," says CEO Kruepp, who prior to his short gig at Procket was the sales chief at Redback. "They will try to get rid of some of this stuff in the network and move to a common IP core. Carriers want to get rid of all these silos."
Stoke's box is designed to eventually adapt secure session management to WiMax, Wifi, fiber, and cellular networks. For now, however, the company says its taking small steps by building its box for individual carriers to manage sessions in specific applications. Hence, the first deployment is being used as a video session management device.
The question is whether carriers will be able to bite on the idea that the Stoke product can handle a variety of roles.
Sudhakar Ramakrishna, Stoke's vice president of strategy, says that a traditional broadband remote access server (B-RAS) is optimized for data, but it's not secure and isn't geared toward multimedia networks. GGSN boxes are designed only for wireless data, not voice. And media gateways are optimal for voice but have low throughput and no multimedia support.
Analysts say the vision is valid, if ambitious.
"Stoke is the first company I am familiar with that is introducing a product to address the issues associated with the movement of an IP session from one network to another without losing the connection," says John Longo, senior analyst with Heavy Reading.
Stoke recently moved its 85 employees into a new office across from Marvell Inc. here in Silicon Valley. A central feature to the office was a ping pong table on which the company had just played its own "Final Four" tournament.
— R. Scott Raynovich, Editor in Chief, Light Reading