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Infineta Launches 10 Gbps WAN Optimization

Startup intends to differentiate itself from Riverbed and Blue Coat by focusing on enterprise clouds and using hardware-based acceleration to generate inter-data center links at wire speed.

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WAN optimization startup Infineta Systems launched its first product and announced a $15 million second funding round Monday. Though it's very late to the market, with competitors like Riverbed and Blue Coat having been established for years, it has some unique technology that it hopes will distinguish itself.

Infineta's acceleration is implemented in hardware through field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), whereas competitors use software running on a standard PC platform. The company also is focusing sharply on enterprise clouds and high-capacity links that have a data center at both ends, while other vendors are also targeting slower links to branch offices, cloud services, or individual client devices.

The firm's core techniques look very similar to those of other WAN optimization vendors, applying the same deduplication, quality of service optimization, and application-specific accelerations that have become familiar in the industry. However, implementing its algorithm in hardware should enable it to scale to higher speeds, with the initial product available in versions that support LAN-side data rates of 3, 5, and 10 Gbps. All use the same hardware, so customers can buy a 3-Gbps model and upgrade to 10-Gbps with a license key. "We've got something that's fundamentally different," said Raj Kanaya, cofounder and CEO of Infineta, in an interview. "All the other vendors have designed a product for the branch office use case, but we're all about the east-west computing problem."

His words echo data center switch vendors who describe traffic between servers as east-west, in contrast to flows between servers and clients as north-south. The rise of virtualization has spurred a large increase in this east-west traffic, driving the shift from hierarchical switching architectures to flatter fabrics that connect servers more directly.

To further push the analogy with Ethernet fabrics, Infineta calls its box a Data Mobility Switch (DMS).The big difference is that switch fabrics are designed to connect servers within the same data center, whereas Infineta is aimed at servers in different data centers that may be thousands of miles apart. Typical applications are remote storage and live migration of virtual machines, in which running VMs are moved from one data center to another without downtime.

Infineta claims that it isn't competing with other WAN optimization vendors, saying that most of its customers already have WAN optimization installed in their branch office links, but can't use it to interconnect data centers because software-based technology doesn't scale to the multi-Gbps data rates needed for east-west traffic. In contrast, Infineta is a hardware-only play. Unlike most of the others, it isn't planning to release a soft client for laptops, a virtual appliance for servers, or a service to optimize traffic to and from Internet cloud providers. "None of our customers are looking at the Internet," said Kanaya. "These guys have dedicated pipes. The vast majority are using a private line between data centers, some moving towards (multiprotocol label switching)."

However, existing WAN optimization vendors disagree that a new kind of hardware is needed. In particular, Silver Peak has been focused on higher data rates for years and is Monday launching the NX-10K, an IP accelerator that supports WAN links of up to 2.5 Gpbs. This is very roughly equivalent to Infineta's LAN-side of 10 Gbps, though an exact comparison depends on how much dededuplication (compression) the boxes achieve--something that in turn depends on the type of traffic they are optimizing. Like the Infineta product, the high-end Silver Peak accelerator is also available only as hardware (rather than a virtual) appliance, though one built using PC components.

Founded three years ago, Infineta says that it now has about 30 employees, mostly engineers, though it plans to add more sales and marketing staff now that it has a product to sell and additional capital. The new funding round doubled the company's total capitalization to $30 million and was led by new investor Rembrandt Venture Partners, with participation from the company's two existing VC firms, Alloy Ventures and North Bridge Venture Partners. It says that about five customers are already using the DMS, with another five setting up trials this month.

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