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10 Networking Startups To Watch In 2017

  • There was a time in the early part of this decade when startups were popping up right and left, all eager to jump on the software-defined networking bandwagon. As the hype around SDN has faded, some SDN startups like Embrane have been acquired, while others have transitioned away from the SDN moniker, such as Plexxi, which now calls itself a "pioneer in converged network infrastructure for public and private cloud deployments." Late last year, PLUMgrid simply closed its doors, reportedly selling off its assets to VMware.

    Today, there are still plenty of networking startups, but they're no longer focused on SDN, although many incorporate SDN concepts and software still is the name of the game. Instead, they're focused on cloud networking, network automation, or network verification. Some promise to do something their founders argue SDN so far has failed to do: Overcome the complex nature of networking and make it more agile.

    Still other new startups are focused on providing new techniques for network monitoring and analytics, an area they say traditional monitoring tools fall far short of meeting today's enterprise and service provider needs.

    Many of these startups boast executive management with impressive track records in the networking industry, ramping up their credibility.

    Of course, time will tell which of these shiny new networking companies will succeed. Competing with heavyweights like Cisco in the networking industry is no small feat, after all. With the landscape constantly shifting, it's hard to predict which startups will stick around. One network analytics startup – Deepfield -- was snapped up by Nokia in December.

    With so much startup activity, 2017 promises to be another interesting year in networking. Check out these 10 networking startups worth keeping an eye on in the year ahead.

    (Image: Natali_Mis/Shutterstock)

  • Apstra


    Apstra debuted last summer, introducing what it calls "the first vendor-agnostic distributed operating system for the data center network." The Apstra Operating System, which became generally available in July, uses intent statements from the customer to automate design and deployment of configurations across multi-vendor networks, and provides telemetry and analytics.

    In October, Apstra said it will integrate AOS with Facebook's Wedge 100 top-of-rack switch, targeting customers building private clouds. Stanford Professor David Cheriton, who co-founded Arista Networks, serves as Apstra's chief scientist and is funding the company.

  • Aviatrix


    Founded in 2014, Aviatrix calls itself a "pioneer in cloud native networking." The startup's software integrates with AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google and is designed to support enterprise hybrid clouds.

    "Using a software-defined networking (SDN) architecture, the company eliminates the need for IT organizations to cobble together individual virtual private network (VPN) connections into various public cloud environments. Instead, enterprises can build a hybrid cloud network via Aviatrix's central controller, which is deployable either in the cloud or in the enterprise data center," Shamus McGillicuddy, senior analyst at Enterprise Management Associates, wrote in a research report.

    Aviatrix boasts Hyatt Hotels – which uses Aviatrix with Microsoft Azure – as one of its customers. The company is led by former executives from Cisco, Huawei, F5 Networks, Riverbed, and Microsoft.


  • Barefoot Networks


    Barefoot Networks has developed a programmable switch chip targeting hyper-scale data center operators. By making networks programmable down to the data-plane level, the startup aims to advance software-defined networking. Network operators program Barefoot's Tofino chip, which the company says processes packets at a record-breaking 6.5 terabits per second, using the open source P4 language. The company has an illustrious executive management team, including Nick McKeown, a Stanford University professor who co-founded SDN pioneer Nicira.

    In November, Barefoot announced $23 million in new funding led by Chinese internet powerhouses Alibaba and Tencent, bringing its total funding to more than $150 million. The company started sampling Tofino to customers last quarter.

  • Forward Networks


    Forward Networks' modeling technology aims to streamline network management and prevent outages. Using formal verification to make a copy of an enterprise network in software, it's designed to make it easier for network engineers to spot misconfigurations. It's also designed to allow engineers to test changes before deployment to avoid problems.

    Founded by Ph.D. students who helped develop OpenFlow while working in Nick McKeown's research group at Stanford, Forward Networks has raised about $11.5 million in funding. The startup impressed networking pros who attended Network Field Day 13, including Amy Arnold, who blogged that Forward Networks provides a unique lab-like setting for testing failover scenarios and network changes in advance to see how they impact the network. "The confidence in the DR testing plan skyrockets," she wrote. Another network engineer, David Varnum, called Forward's technology "extraordinary stuff."

    "Forward Networks is enabling network engineers to step up their game and get out of the world of ping and traceroutes," he wrote in a blog post.

  • Jolata

    There are a lot of network monitoring/analytics products, but Jolata claims its TruFlow platform is the only one to track every single packet as it traverses the network, segment by segment. The detailed visibility is designed to give network operators the ability to improve service quality and speed troubleshooting.

    The company, which launched in 2015, targets large network operators. Last April, it announced $7 million in financing from Spirent Communications, Ericsson, and ATA Ventures.

  • Kentik


    Kentik also aims to provide complete network visibility. The company launched its SaaS-based network traffic analysis platform in 2015 and now counts more than 60 customers, including Yelp, Pandora, and OpenDNS. Kentik describes its data engine as handing multiple sources of network data such as NetFlow and SNMP at "terabit scale," providing quick unified visibility into the collected data, and the ability to conduct forensics analysis. Use cases include network optimization and DDoS detection and mitigation.

    In August, Kentik announced $23 million in funding, bringing its total funding to about $38.2 million. Kentik was founded by former executives from Akamai, CloudFlare, YouTube, and Netflix.

  • Nyansa


    Nyansa jumped out of stealth into the bustling network analytics space last spring. The company, which was founded in 2013, touts its Voyance platform as providing IT teams unprecedented visibility across heterogeneous wired and wireless networks for troubleshooting. The cloud-based platform also gives IT teams the ability to test changes to the network.

    Nyansa presented its technology at Mobility Field Day last spring, and impressed network engineer Rowell Dionicio. In a blog post, he wrote, "Think of it as a tool that truly has 360-degree views into your network for the ease of troubleshooting and getting down to the root cause of an issue."

    Nyansa, which has $12 million in funding and has several universities such as Brandeis as customers, recently added application monitoring capabilities.

  • 128 Technology


    128 Technology touts its session-oriented Secure Vector Routing software as a revolutionary approach that simplifies networking. Running on white-box servers, the software doesn't use overlays and is designed to eliminate the need for extra boxes for load balancing and firewalls. While 128 tends to steer clear of using the terms WAN and software-defined WAN, networking expert Ethan Banks of Packet Pushers last year told me the technology could be used for a broad range of use cases, including next generation WAN or SD-WAN. The company has raised $36 million in funding.


  • SnapRoute


    Since it launched in June, SnapRoute has been on something of a tear in the open networking space. Founded by a bunch of former data center network engineers at Apple, the startup touts its FlexSwitch software as enabling truly open networks. SnapRoute contributed its software to Facebook's Open Compute Project, and was the first official L2/L3 open source networking stack available to run on top of Facebook's Wedge switch. In October, the company announced a leadership role in the OpenSwitch project, which was originally founded by Hewlett-Packard Enterprise to develop an open source network operating system. SnapRoute doesn't publicize its customers, but reportedly has won over some internet giants.