“10 Hot Networking Startups in 2012” -Chad Berndston, CRN

“10 Hot Networking Startups in 2012” -Chad Berndston, CRN

Networking has become increasingly important in today’s job market. Companies have begun making the shift towards software-defined networking, or SDN, as technology grows. Here are 10 emerging companies that have built upon SDN.

SDN On The Brain

The software-defined networking (SDN) trend has taken hold in the networking and infrastructure communities — as a way to make networks more programmable and leverage the power of network virtualization and other emerging technologies. So, it’s little surprise that many of networking’s most buzzed-about new companies address SDN head-on.

Their success portends not only the future of the trend but also how the traditional networking channel will be able to profit from it, especially as those companies begin to articulate channel strategies. Here’s a look at 10 emerging vendors — some SDN-related, some not — that we’ll be keeping an eye on throughout 2012 and the coming years. They join other emerging vendors such as Blue Jeans Network and Big Switch Networks that appeared in similar CRN lists in 2011.

-Nicira

HQ: Palo Alto, Calif.

Nicira emerged from stealth mode in February 2012, but it had already proven itself as a marketing firecracker, having built word-of-mouth buzz over its network virtualization platform — and the high-profile hires it made from the likes of Cisco, Juniper and VMware — for many months prior. When the announcement came, it was Nicira’s Network Virtualization Platform (NVP), a software system for creating distributed virtual network infrastructure custom-fit for cloud-ready data centers. In the NVP, the entire software system is decoupled and independent from physical network hardware.

The company has continued to add customers and has hinted at a future strategy for partnering with the channel.

-Plexxi

HQ: Cambridge, Mass.

Plexxi still hasn’t said much about what, exactly, it’s developing, but the company is certainly well-funded: it just took in $20.1 million in a Series B funding round led by Lightspeed Venture Partners, Matrix Partners and Northbridge Venture Partners. More details should emerge from Plexxi soon; the company in early June launched the first phase of a private beta program for select customers, describing its product as an “integrated hardware/software offering that allows data center operators to build and manage a network from the perspective of the needs of the application or workloads.”

-Cisco’s Insiemi

HQ: Palo Alto, Calif.

When we’re talking about Insiemi, what we’re really talking about is Cisco, which has backed this mysterious SDN startup with $100 million so far and holds rights to acquire for an additional $750 million. Following months of rumors, Cisco at last provided information about Insiemi at the Cisco Partner Summit in April, including that the management team behind several of Cisco’s successful “spin-in” companies — Mario Mazzola, Prem Jain and Luca Cafiero — is at Insiemi’s helm.

“If there’s any company that’s going to reinvent networking, it will be Cisco,” said Cisco CTO Padmasree Warrior in an April interview with CRN. “We want our partners to understand that Cisco is working on enabling all the capabilities needed for the network of the future.”

-Pertino Networks

HQ: Cupertino, Calif.

We try not to highlight companies that are so early-stage they’re just starting to get whispers, but the early buzz on Pertino Networks, an SDN startup that confirmed $8.85 million in funding in April, is quite strong. Craig Elliott, the former CEO of Packeteer and one-time international general manager of Apple’s internet and online services business, is in charge as CEO, but the company is also managed by a number of Blue Coat and Juniper alumni and has big-name investors such as Stratacom CEO Steve Campbell and former Apple and Sun Microsystems CFO Joe Graziano.

-Pica8

HQ: Palo Alto, Calif.

Two-year-old Pica8 was spun out of server vendor Quanta in January 2012, and what’s gotten it a piece of the spotlight is a virtualized switch that the company says can handle the workloads of comparable Cisco switches for about an eighth of the price. Pica8 builds physical switches using merchant silicon as opposed to ASICs, and it plans to enable open software that sits on top of those switches.

-Embrane

HQ: Santa Clara, Calif.

Embrane in December 2011 launched heleos, what the company described as “the first distributed software platform for powering on-demand elastic network services such as load balancers, firewalls, virtual private networks and WAN optimization.” It’s a compelling proposition — the easier delivery of those types of network services using flexible software instead of cumbersome physical hardware — and Embrane’s target customers are CSPs and enterprises looking to build out cloud environments. The heleos launch served as Embrane’s de facto coming out party, and it also launched Layer 4-7 network services covering load balancing and firewall/VPN, both running in heleos.

-LineRate Systems

HQ: Louisville, Colo.

LineRate is a four-year-old Colorado company that emerged from stealth mode during the Open Networking Summit this past April. The company’s software delivers services on top of virtualized networks and works on platforms running commodity x86-based servers, with the idea being to deploy network services much more easily without having to set up physical networking hardware. LineRate Proxy, the company’s first product, is a suite of full-proxy Layer 4-7 network services providing traffic management, security and performance visibility.

“The promise of SDNS hinges on the development of network software that can perform at the speed of hardware — we are the tipping point,” LineRate CEO Steve Georgis said at the time.

-vArmour Networks

HQ: Santa Clara, Calif.

Not much is yet known about vArmour (pronounced vee-armor), but the company was founded by veterans from the former NetScreen — including seven-year Juniper alum Michael Shieh — on an intriguing proposition: network security to keep up with the demands of network virtualization.

Shieh started the Santa Clara-based company in January 2011, and its otherwise sparse website includes a job listing seeking “the best and the brightest talents in networking and security.”

-Mobiquity

HQ: Wellesley, Mass.

Founded in April 2011, Mobiquity has come on radar in a big way thanks to the ongoing explosion of interest in mobile devices, mobile device management and mobile infrastructure. Mobiquity’s stake in that market is largely the design, building and deployment of mobile applications and various mobile services — in other words, your company needs a mobile strategy (yesterday), and Mobiquity will solve those problems post-haste. Mobiquity founder Bill Siebel told The Boston Globe the company is targeting $100 million in revenue by 2014 and nearly two-thirds of Mobiquity’s current projects involve developing for Apple’s iOS platform.

-Infinetics

HQ: Boston, Mass.

A healthy startup climate has a way of bringing veteran industry talents back together, and that’s definitely the case at Infinetics, which originally launched in 2009. It has a management team that includes J. Scott Benson, Leigh Turner, Chris Williams and Anthony Antonuccio, all of whom were co-founders and top executives at Valent Software, which was acquired by Lycos 12 years ago.

Infinetics’ focus is specialized switch fabric software for scaling networks in such a way that maximizes their capacity, pushes their physical limitations and makes them more efficient. According to Network World, Infinetics is actively pitching its software to the likes of Arista Networks and HP in hopes of being adopted for use in those vendors’ switching technologies.

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