WAN Optimization Gone Wild

Cisco goes shopping, French startup builds US beach head, and Blue Coat plans upgrade

March 29, 2007

4 Min Read
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Call it today's WAN optimization trifecta: Cisco acquired packet-processing startup SpansLogic, a new vendor got fresh funds, and an existing player has an upgrade in the works. (See Cisco to Acquire Spans Logic.)

The SpansLogic deal is just the latest by always acquisitive Cisco, which include XML specialist Reactivity, virtualization vendor NeoPath, and security firm IronPort (See Cisco Acquires Reactivity, Cisco Nabs NeoPath, and Cisco to Acquire IronPort.) The networking giant has already made M&A moves in the WAN optimization space, snapping up FineGround for $70 million back in 2005. (See Cisco Chomps FineGround, Cisco Accelerates WAN Adoption, and Cisco Backs Into Optimization.)

SpansLogic develops processors that speed packet processing across the network. Cisco's not revealing how much it paid nor its specific plans for the startup, but it did confirm that the SpansLogic processors will be built into data center products such as Ethernet switches.

The chip specialist was founded in 2004 and has been cloaked in secrecy since then. Its Website offers scant information on the firm and its products, although it lists Crescendo Ventures and ATA Ventures as financial backers.

SpansLogic's 14 employees are expected to move over to Cisco upon the closure of the acquisition next month.Boosting network performance is a key element of Cisco's data center push, hence its desire to improve packet processing speeds. The vendor's Service-Oriented Network Architecture (SONA) initiative, for example, involves tying different enterprise IT functions together using the network as a common element. (See Cisco Speaks Applications and Cisco Everywhere: Meet SONA.) This involves ensuring that the network can deliver any kind of application to any kind of mobile device.

Although recent years have seen a flurry of M&A activity in the WAN optimization and WAFS space, startups are still appearing. (See Packeteer Picks Tacit, Peribit Deal: More to Come, Cisco Acts on Actona, and F5 Snaps Up Swan Labs.) Last night, for example, French firm Streamcore got $7 million in Series B funding to bolster its presence on this side of the pond. (See Streamcore Secures $7M.)

The round, which was led by Auriga Partners and included Convergent Capital and OTC Asset Management, brings the vendor's total funding to $10 million. The Paris-based firm sells WAN optimization hardware and software that it acquired from a France Telecom spin-off in 2003.

Streamcore's flagship product is its ABBA Engine software. Sadly, this has nothing to do with the Swedish supergroup of the '70s, but stands for Application Behavior Based Acceleration. The ABBA Engine runs on a 1U-device called StreamGroomer, which is hooked up to the network to ensure that applications such as voice, video, and Citrix receive adequate bandwidth.

The startup's CEO Eric Jeux told Byte and Switch that the software examines the sessions running over the network and automatically reallocates bandwidth as it is needed. Unlike most WAN optimization vendors, Streamcore claims that its hardware need only be deployed in central data centers, removing the need to install additional devices in branch offices.At the moment, the bulk of the vendor's 50-strong workforce is in France, although Jeux told Byte and Switch the firm has a small U.S. office in Emeryville, Calif.

With the Series B burning a hole in his pocket, Jeux is planning to expand this U.S. presence. "I hope to be around 20 people in the U.S. within a year," he says, adding that the firm will open a New York office sometime next quarter.

Streamcore is also on the search for partnerships with storage vendors looking to ensure WAN backup performance. "We don't have partnerships with backup companies now, but we're in discussions with a few of them," says Jeux, declining to get more specific.

At least one analyst thinks that this could be useful to users. "If you're doing a lot of backup traffic, it would be about making sure that you're not wasting capacity so that it can be used for other purposes," says Peter Christy, principal at the Internet Research Group (IRG).

The Streamcore CEO told Byte and Switch that his firm has already racked up around 500 customers in Europe, which include financial firm AXA, Philips, restaurant chain Quick, and the French division of security firm Brink's. A financial firm is Streamcore's first U.S. beta customer, although the exec would not divulge the company's identity.It is not just French firms and networking giants that are getting busy in the WAN optimization space. Blue Coat Systems, for example, is planning to expand its own WAN optimization products in the next few weeks. New products are expected to include better integration with existing network devices and enhanced security features. (See Blue Coat Announces Growth, Blue Coat Optimizes Video and Riverbed Steps on SSL Gas.)

Watch this wide, open space.

James Rogers, Senior Editor Byte and Switch

  • ATA Ventures

  • Blue Coat Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BCSI)

  • Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)

  • Crescendo Ventures

  • Expand Networks Inc.

  • France Telecom SA (NYSE: FTE)

  • IronPort Systems

  • Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR)

  • NeoPath Networks

  • Riverbed Technology Inc. (Nasdaq: RVBD)

  • Spans Logic Inc.

  • Streamcore System

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