Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Plumgrid, Another Virtual Networking Start-Up, Raises $10.7 Million

It’s becoming readily apparent that the next big disruption coming to the data center is going to be around how all the machines in them are connected to networks both internal and external. Networks are going to be virtualized and their parameters defined in software in much the same way that we talk of virtualized servers so commonly today.

There’s been a significant uptick in M&A and VC funding activity around this idea lately. For months I had been covering the plans of the cool start-up Nicira to try and mess up the best-laid business plans of existing networking players like Cisco Systems and Juniper Networks. Then, just as suddenly as it burst onto the scene, VMware, the company that basically defined virtualization inside servers and other computers, stepped up and acquired it for $1.3 billion.

Then a week later, software giant Oracle took out Xsigo Systems, another virtual networking concern, though we don’t know how much it paid.

Now we have a new player to talk about. It’s called Plumgrid, and today it will announce that it is taking a $10.7 million Series A round of venture capital funding from US Venture Partners and Hummer Winblad Venture Partners. Chris Rust of USVP just joined its board of directors, and Lars Leckie, a Hummer Winblad partner, is joining the board, too.

But Plumgrid is not coming out of stealth mode, at least not just yet.

I talked for awhile with Awais Nemat, (pictured) who has assembled a team of engineers from companies like Cisco, chipmaker Marvell, Sun Microsystems, VMware and even Nicira, all of them people who have contributed a lot to the concept of network virtualization and software-defined networks.

He wouldn’t tell me much about what the company is working on productwise — that’s still the stealth part. But he did tell me a bit about the kinds of problems it is aiming to solve. “There is a monumental shift coming in networking infrastructure … Networking functions that used to require a dedicated box we do in software running on standard software, running on standard silicon,” he told me.

Different kinds of companies have different kinds of networking needs, but today more often than not, all companies pick from the same set of hardware products that Cisco and Juniper and Hewlett-Packard and other networking companies offer; the primary difference has to do with whether one or the other is big enough or too big.

“We see a new kind of customer emerging, one whose demands and needs are not being satisfied by the traditional network infrastructure vendors,” Nemat said. To that end, Plumgrid is working with some early customers to define exactly what it is going to offer, essentially by defining the problems those customers have with what they can buy off the shelf today. “Empathy is turning out to be a pretty good way to design a product,” he told me.

Nemat himself is an old Cisco hand who struck out on his own to run D5 Networks, a company that designed chips for networking security. It was acquired by Marvell in 2006. He stayed on there until last year when he founded Plumgrid and raised $2 million and change in angel funding. It’s nice to have another secretive networking start-up to watch.


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— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google