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10 Software Defined Networking Startups to Watch

Jeff Vance | Aug. 23, 2013
As the software-defined data center evolves from dream to reality, many Software Defined Networking (SDN) startups are being snatched up by established networking vendors. Here are nine SDN startups (and an important new standards body) that intend to push SDN into the mainstream.

Software Defined Networking (SDN) startups are being snatched up, one by one, by incumbent networking vendors who fear turning into dinosaurs as the software-defined data center evolves from Utopian fever dream to reality. Nicira, Vyatta, Cariden and Contrail have already been acquired by VMware, Brocade, Cisco and Juniper, respectively.

Meanwhile, mainstream vendors such as IBM and HP have rolled out their own SDN products.

According to IDC, the SDN market will reach $3.7 billion by 2016. SDN products may still be immature, but there is a ton of forward momentum. Here are nine startups (and an important new standards body) that intend to push SDN into the mainstream.

1. Affirmed Networks

What they do: Provide virtualized subscriber and content management tools for mobile operators.

Headquarters: Acton, Mass.

CEO: Hassan Ahmed, who was previously the CEO of Sonus.

Founded: 2010

Funding: $103 million in total funding, including a $51 million Series C that closed in June. Investors include Bessemer Venture Partners, KCK Group, Matrix Partners, Charles River Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners, T-Venture, and Vodafone Ventures.

Why they're on this list: Affirmed Networks brings the SDN concept, which is typically confined to enterprise or cloud data centers, to mobile networks. Mobile users expect a lot from the mobile Internet these days. They want to stream video content, conduct mobile commerce, and engage with each other through social media. In other words, pretty much anything you can do on a PC over a broadband connection you also want to be able to do from a mobile device. The trouble is that even 4G networks aren't entirely up to the task.

Affirmed Networks' software-based virtualization solution transforms mobile networks from legacy access architectures to intelligent, virtualized networks, which dramatically shifts the operators' economics and enables them to deliver the services their customers demand at broadband-like speeds.

The Affirmed solution is designed to overcome major challenges operators face in economically scaling their networks to meet subscriber usage and quality of experience demands, as well as to intelligently treat multiple traffic streams -- sometimes from the same subscriber -- to appropriately ensure the best "Quality of Experience." This means that operators may tailor services individually and create adaptable charging profiles for each user.

Competitive Landscape: I haven't found any head-to-head competitors (chime in below in the comments field if you know of any), but Affirmed hopes to displace such incumbents as Alcatel-Lucent, Nokia, Ericsson, Cisco, and Huawei.

2. Big Switch Networks

What they do: Develop OpenFlow-based SDN switches, controllers and monitoring tools.

Headquarters: Palo Alto, Calif.

CEO: Guido Appenzeller, who was previously a Consulting Assistant Professor at Stanford University and head of the Clean Slate Lab, where he led the research team that developed the OpenFlow v1.0 standard and the reference switch and controller implementations. Before that, he was CTO of Voltage Security.


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