Swan Dives Into WAN Acceleration

A $15M Series A will fuel the latest venture from Andrew Foss, who once sold the PIX firewall to Cisco

August 31, 2004

3 Min Read
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The man who brought the PIX firewall to Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) is taking on the WAN accelerator market with what he claims is a unique approach to the problem of speeding up enterprise applications.

Swan Labs, founded by CTO Andrew Foss and carrying 25 employees, announced a $15 million funding round today. Its products include new concoctions that Foss won't reveal until October, but as a staging block, the company has acquired the Netcelera product from ITWorx Inc. (see Swan Intros WAN Accelerator).

Swan is really loading up on the celebrity factor, having signed 3Com Corp. (Nasdaq: COMS) chairman Eric Benhamou to be Swan's chairman as well. His Benhamou Global Ventures had provided some of Swan's seed capital.

The new funding, Swan's Series A, came from Norwest Venture Partners and Doll Capital Management (DCM).

Swan is coining its own term, Enterprise Application Shaping, for its brand of traffic management, which Foss claim is a breed apart from the approaches on the market. Details are slim, but Foss is willing to discuss what EAS isn't.First, Swan isn't doing the kind of packet inspection offered by companies such as P-Cube Inc., which is getting acquired by Cisco. (See Cisco Plucks P-Cube for $200M.) P-Cube uses custom hardware and software to inspect each packet at the application layer, tracking user sessions flow by flow. But packet-minded QOS "is far short of what you can do when you truly understand what the application is doing," Foss says.

The problem arises from the multiple sessions triggered during an application session. Flow-based networking can deliver uniform QOS to each session, but Swan claims it can do better by keeping the entire session tied together.

"You've got to look up the component parts that make up one of these sessions," Foss says. "It tends to be very transactional in nature, and what's unique about transactions is that you've got to parallelize them to reduce the number of round trips."

Second, Swan claims to go beyond the compression techniques used by other WAN acceleration vendors. Actually, most of that group -- which includes Allot Communications, Expand Networks Inc., Packeteer Inc. (Nasdaq: PKTR), and Peribit Networks Inc. -- already use approaches beyond plain compression, says Michelle McLean, director of product marketing for Peribit.

"You're going to see a lot of folks talking about the space at an application level, so you're going to see a lot of language shifts" in the marketing, McLean says. Peribit, for example, extended its product line significantly in June (see Peribit Plugs In Hard Drive).To get started, Swan picked up Netcelera, which ITWorx put on the block about six months ago, according to McLean. "They arrived at the same technology we were hoping to build, so we acquired it and got a couple dozen happy customers," as well as revenues on Day 1, Foss says.

But that doesn't necessarily reveal what Swan is doing. "[Customers'] lab tests didn't go well for Netcelera, so they didn't stick around" in competitive trials, McLean says. That's left Peribit and other competitors with little idea of Netcelera's capabilities.

Swan is the third company Foss has created. He founded Network Translation Inc., makers of PIX, in 1994 and saw it acquired by Cisco in 1995.

Foss stayed with Cisco until 1999, then left to form Caw Networks Inc. He says he'd caught on to the WAN performance problem by then, and the new company built test platforms (WebAvalanche and WebReflector) that could measure and analyze the problem. This company got acquired, too, by Spirent plc (NYSE: SPM; London: SPT) in 2002.

Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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