NetDevices Packs 'Em In

Startup emerged from stealth this week with an all-singing, all-dancing data center device

July 1, 2005

3 Min Read
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After almost two years in the development lab, startup NetDevices Inc. emerged from stealth this week with a new "services gateway" targeted at regional data centers and branch offices (see NetDevices Intros SG-8 Gateway).

The startup's SG-8 device is an all-singing, all-dancing data center box, combining a range of security, voice, and network technologies. These include firewall, VPN, intrusion detection and prevention, switching, routing, and voice over IP (VOIP). NetDevices claims the unit has an overall throughput of 1 Gbit/s.

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based startup is pushing the 3U-high SG-8 as a way to help users reduce the number of devices deployed in their networks, thereby cutting operating costs and making life easier for staff. The vendor claims it's a perfect fit for the regional data center.

Hang on: Isn't this an invitation to the old "single point of failure" bugaboo? Indeed, for many users, deploying all-in-one devices on a remote site is seen as a risky business, because if it goes out, so does the site.

Not so, says NetDevices' Mark Weiner, senior director of marketing. While he admits the worry for users, he says the SG-8 has been specifically designed to get round this problem. Firstly, the device's underlying architecture is designed to keep running even if one of its service functions is down. This is similar to the approach taken on core platforms within carrier networks, such as routers, he says.Additionally, NetDevices has added a management backplane with dedicated management processors on every line card to the SG-8. According to Weiner, this lets an IT manager access the device even if the control and data backplanes are out of commission.

In recent years, the "single point" argument has given way before a range of IT devices that integrate multiple technologies, such as the Integrated Switch Router (ISR) from Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO). But NetDevices is among the first to pack a bunch of such basic data center functions in one unit.

At least one expert says they won't be alone for long. There are a number of companies pursuing this -- NetDevices happens to be the first of these products to hit the market,” says Keith Nissen, senior analyst at In-Stat Market Research. He says enterprises are increasingly looking to centralize network management, hence the market for this type of product. Some of the industry's big names will start offering similar devices over the next 18 months, he adds. What's more, there's a market for products like the SG-8 among carriers looking to offer managed services to their customers.

A bigger market will be a double-edged sword for NetDevices. On one hand, it will validate its direction. On the other, it will make it tougher for a startup to get its voice heard.

Nonetheless, early forays appear to be successful. Execs at NetDevices say a “double-digit” number of early adopters around the world have already deployed the SG-8. These include Northern Illinois University, which will use the box to provide services to its 35,000 users.NetDevices was founded back in July 2003 by three former execs: Seenu Banda, Rob Haragan, and Jeff Kidd. Banda, who is now the NetDevices chief executive officer, was responsible for Cisco’s midrange routers. Haragan and Kidd also worked on Cisco’s routers, and are now the NetDevices vice presidents of engineering.

Since its launch, the firm has clinched $15 million in A Series funding from Artiman Ventures, Columbia Capital, ComVentures, and JumpStartUp.

NetDevices foresees a busy near-term future. Banda says that the company is planning to grow its workforce from 135 to around 200 employees and is looking to launch new hardware later this year. This will be a smaller version of the SG-8 for lower-end branch offices, he adds.

— James Rogers, Site Editor, Next-Gen Data Center Forum

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