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Software-defined networking startup Embrane is moving full speed ahead with its vision for programmable, application-centric networks, this week unveiling an updated version of its flagship Heleos platform. The company also revealed a new partnership with global systems integrator World Wide Technology (WWT).
According to Embrane, WWT represents the first of what it hopes to be a broad ecosystem of channel partners, as it looks to drive enterprise adoption of its Heleos network services platform.
"We see ourselves leveraging the channel to a greater extent over time. We are a relatively young company, so it's very important for us to maintain focus and to make the relationships we create as successful as possible," Dante Malagrino, Embrane's president and CEO, told CRN. "But, clearly, having a distribution channel is critical for us, and we consider that an important piece of our strategy moving forward."
Embrane, founded in 2009, is one of the many startups to sprout up over the past few years focused on the burgeoning SDN trend. But, unlike many of its rivals, Santa Clara, Calif.-based Embrane is looking to push the SDN discussion beyond Layer 2 and Layer 3 networking functions. Embrane achieves this through Heleos, its distributed software platform that moves the programmable networking attributes most SDN companies promote into Layer 4-7 networking, offering such functions as load balancing and VPN.
Malagrino, who had a six-year run at Cisco before launching Embrane, said the company is taking a "lighthouse approach" to partner recruitment for now, looking to on-board a select, but committed, group of partners for Heleos.
"We need to work with partners that are investing in this relationship, which is exactly what WWT is doing," Malagrino said.
Bob Olwig, vice president of business strategy and marketing at St. Louis-based WWT, said Embrane immediately stood out as a unique startup in the increasingly crowded SDN space.
"[Embrane] seemed to have a different approach and focus that was around network services at layers 4-7 versus the lower layers, which seemed like it was becoming a crowded market with people kind of fighting over that [space]," Olwig told CRN. He added that the Cisco heritage touted by Embrane executives such as Malagrino also piqued WWT's interest.
Dave Chandler, practice lead for routing and switching at WWT, stressed the interoperability between Embrane's Heleos platform and other vendors' solutions as a big differentiator for the startup.
"They also work well with multiple vendors. Most of the time when you are talking about companies that you might consider a competitor doing the same thing, you have to use that particular vendor's entire suite of products," Chandler said. "But with Embrane ... you can use Cisco, you can use VMware, you can use KVM. I don't care who is doing the Layer 2 or Layer 3 switching -- this can run on top of it."
Malagrino said the idea behind Heleos, and Embrane's approach to SDN as a whole, is to deliver application-centric networking, or programmable, agile infrastructures that prioritize the performance of business-critical applications.
"Other SDN players have been a lot more focused on solving some of the connectivity issues -- the switching, or what we call the Layer 2 connectivity issues -- but we took a very complementary approach because we thought it was important to start as close as possible to the application layer," Malagrino said. "The closer you are to the application, the more immediate the value you can deliver your customers."