Cisco backs Qwilt to fuel global CDN and edge cloud push

Cisco Investments has joined a new round of funding in edge cloud specialist Qwilt, a move that broadens a partnership between the two focused on a global edge caching platform that is starting to take hold in the video streaming world.

The amount of Cisco's funding was not disclosed. But the contribution, which adds to Cisco's earlier strategic funding in Qwilt, did factor into a new $70 million Series E round in Qwilt, a person familiar with the situation said. The latest round, which takes Qwilt's total raise to about $134 million, establishes an $800 million valuation for privately held Qwilt, the person added.

Cisco's new financial connection also builds into a partnership between the two companies that has led to the development of a content delivery network (CDN) and edge architecture based on the Streaming Video Alliance's Open Caching specifications.

Alon Maor, Qwilt's CEO, said the new funding will help the company scale up product development, launch new services and pack on more sales and marketing muscle. Qwilt, he said, has doubled its employee base to about 150 over the past year, and expects to double it again by the end of 2022.

"This is funding that allows us to scale everything that we are doing," said Maor, who is also a former Cisco engineer. "Qwilt is building a global network that will cover the globe and will be very distributed." He estimates that Qwilt's open caching system currently has a presence in more than 1,500 data centers worldwide.

Additionally, the Qwilt-Cisco open caching partnership "will be presented in any strategic offering that Cisco may make to any service provider worldwide," Maor said.

"Cisco's investment in Qwilt demonstrates our commitment to helping customers monetize their edge cloud infrastructure with a solution that improves the quality of service and reliability," Jonathan Davidson, EVP and GM at Cisco's Mass-Scale Infrastructure Group, said in a statement.

Disney, BT among customer base

Some of the early, big name partners benefitting from that partnership include Disney and BT. Of recent note, Disney shed some light on its exploration of open caching systems situated at the edges of service provider networks. That's taking shape as Disney looks to scale up a streaming strategy that's poised to deliver hundreds of terabits per second. Meanwhile, BT has been billed as a "flagship customer" of the open caching system developed by Cisco and Qwilt.

The new funding is also coming in the door as Qwilt shifts away from selling directly to network service providers to instead focus sales to studios, programmers and other types of content providers.

"There has been an approach in the past where many companies tried to sell a CDN to the telcos," Maor explained. "A CDN is a global networking problem that you need to solve, and it's a many-to-many challenge between the service providers and the content providers."

Under the partnership model with network providers, Qwilt gains access to their last-mile edge network. Qwilt doesn't pay directly for that access, but does supply those partners with the compute, storage and networking gear. In return, the service provider partner becomes part of the global CDN being managed by Qwilt and gets a share of the revenues, Maor said.

And while CDN is the current, primary use case for the global edge platform being deployed in partnership with Cisco, Qwilt is developing two additional use cases. Maor declined to identify them, but said the general idea is to orchestrate additional services and applications that are powered by the same compute and storage systems that underpin the core platform.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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