Startup picks up $4 million Series A to fund the rollout of TCP optimization technology

June 16, 2007

3 Min Read
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Caltech spinoff FastSoft is the latest entrant to the WAN optimization arena, with a TCP technology it claims can significantly speed file delivery over the Internet.

The startup, which launched its first products earlier this year, also clinched a $4 million funding round this week, led by Miramar Ventures. (See FastSoft Receives $4M.)

FastSoft's flagship offering is its Aria device, a 1U-high appliance that sits in front of FTP servers and checks TCP links for congestion. "The TCP protocol is a 20-year old protocol that was never meant for high-bandwidth applications," says Dan Henderson, the startup's vice president of product and market development. "You wouldn't use a Commodore Vic 20 to do your [PC] work on, but it's the same vintage as TCP/IP."

After checking an Internet link, the Aria device then sends data packets at the "optimal rate," according to Henderson, adding that this can speed up file transfer times by a factor of 13.

WAN optimization and WAFS have certainly caught on in the last few years, with a number of vendors, including hardware vendor Riverbed and managed services specialist Akamai, touting their wares as a way to boost file transfer. (See Users Rally Round Remote Solutions, Riverbed Gets 2000 Customers, Orange, Riverbed Sign, and Akamai Nets Netli for $180M.)Whereas Riverbed offers application acceleration, WAN optimization, and WAFS in its appliances, FastSoft tells Byte and Switch that it is only focused on accelerating Internet connections. FastSoft also uses only one Aria box per WAN link, unlike Riverbed, which relies on devices at both ends of the pipe.

FastSoft has racked up around half a dozen early adopters with this approach, one of which is Hollywood, Calif.-based post-production company The Post Group. Darin Harris, The Post Group's CIO, tells Byte and Switch that he is using an Aria box in front of three FTP servers to speed up delivery of audio and video files to the firm's film and broadcast customers.

Although Harris admits that he was skeptical about FastSoft's performance claims when he was first approached by the startup, he says that he can now send files 10 to 15 times faster than before. "It all depends on network traffic [but] we can transfer a 500-Mbyte file in less than 10 minutes."

The Post Group also looked at Riverbed's Steelhead appliance, but eventually chose an Aria device because it was less expensive. Although Harris did not reveal how much he paid for the box, FastSoft confirms that Aria prices start at $10,000.

Despite the cost benefits of working with an early-stage startup, Harris admits that there is the constant threat of FastSoft getting acquired and disappearing within a larger firm. "That would be a worry with any vendor that is not the size of Cisco or Foundry," he says.Another FastSoft early adopter is Honda, which is using an Aria device at its L.A. R&D center to send design files to its Tokyo HQ. Up the coast in San Francisco, another firm, Pacific Internet Exchange, which hosts Websites for Japanese companies, is also using FastSoft appliances to help deliver content across the Pacific.The Monrovia, Calif.-based startup's technology was born out of a $7 million Caltech research project called FastTCP, backed by Cisco, DARPA, and the National Science Foundation. In April 2005 Caltech researchers Steven Low and Cheng Jin spun the company out of the research site and now serve, respectively, as FastSoft's CEO and vice president of engineering.

Dan Henderson tells Byte and Switch that the Series A funding round will be used to ramp up the firm's sales and marketing efforts. This, he explains, will involve doubling FastSoft's 20-strong workforce over the next 12 months.

James Rogers, Senior Editor Byte and Switch

  • Akamai Technologies Inc. (Nasdaq: AKAM)

  • California Institute of Technology (Caltech)

  • Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)

  • FastSoft Inc.

  • Foundry Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: FDRY)

  • Miramar Venture Partners

  • National Science Foundation (NSF)

  • Riverbed Technology Inc.

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