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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.

The combination of Plexxi's affinity-based Plexxi Switch (hardware) and Plexxi Control (software) allows data centers to be more flexible, resource coherent, deterministic and centrally managed. Plexxi argues that, unlike other Ethernet products, its real differentiator is the use of optics to replace traditional electronics networking. This not only boosts speeds but also reduces costs and power draw. Plexxi claims its solutions cut the cost of building and operating corporate data centers by a factor of five, and gives adopters a low-risk way to improve their data center efficiencies.

Customers include CloudSigma and NextCloud.

Competitive Landscape: Plexxi only mentions Cisco in its competitive positioning, which is either brash or delusional (you pick). We get their point. They offer a suite of products, like a Cisco. However, other competitors include VMware (through the Nicira acquisition), Brocade (Vyatta acquisition) and other startups, including Embrane, Midokura, Big Switch and PLUMgrid.

9. PLUMgrid

What they do: Provide virtual network infrastructure for cloud data centers.

Headquarters: Sunnyvale, Calif.

CEO: Awais Nemat, who was formerly VP of Marvell Semiconductor's Enterprise Business Unit

Founded: 2011

Funding: $10.7 million from U.S. Venture Partners and Hummer Winblad Venture Partners.

Why they're on this list: Many companies embracing SDN (especially incumbents like HP, Cisco and Brocade) tie their SDN visions to the emerging OpenFlow standard. The trouble with OpenFlow, at this point in time anyway, is that an OpenFlow-based data center would require ripping out and replacing legacy switches.

PLUMgrid takes a different approach, offering a virtual networking overlay solution that takes advantage of the proposed VXLAN standard, which abstracts a Layer 2 network across a LAN. The PLUMgrid Platform is a Virtual Network Infrastructure (VNI) solution that builds on VXLAN virtualization and actually enables the virtualization of Layers 2-7, allowing businesses to completely replicate the functions of a physical network infrastructure (PNI) in a virtual environment, without requiring new hardware investments or changes to existing hardware infrastructures.

Designed for enterprises and service providers building private and public cloud data centers, the PLUMgrid Platform is a distributed system, with no central controller, so it scales better than typical hardware-based solutions. APIs are included for CMP integrations, with OpenStack APIs on the way soon, and the platform also includes SDKs to plug into third-party services from the likes of F5, CheckPoint and Palo Alto.

Customers include AT&T, Cavium and MeetMe.

Competitive Landscape: Competitors include incumbents like Cisco and VMware, as well as such startups as Big Switch, Embrane, Midokura and Plexxi.

10. OpenDaylight Project

What they do: Let me clarify something right off the bat: OpenDaylight Project is not a startup. It's a standards body whose goal is to create open-source SDN standards.


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