Startup Pertino Preps Virtual Networking Tech For SMBs

Pertino, a startup developer of software-defined networking (SDN) technology, is in the process of getting ready to give small businesses the ability to build their own business networks in the cloud.

Pertino is building software-defined networking technology that will allow an IT administrator or a non-IT person in a company to set up a global network in minutes from anywhere they can connect to the internet, said Todd Krautkremer, vice president of marketing for the Los Gatos, Calif.-based company.

"Internet connectivity is nearly ubiquitous from everywhere via such technologies as broadband, 4G, or Wi-Fi," Krautkremer said. "The problem with physical connectivity is solved. Now the issue is to connect it all logically. That's what we do."

[Related: Analysis: Nicira Buy To Bring VMware Closer To OpenStack, Networking Vendors ]

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Almost all the IT components for building a business -- the applications, computing resources and storage -- are in the cloud and deliverable as a service. However, the missing piece is the business network, which Krautkremer said has not fundamentally changed in a decade.

"It does not make sense to have all of your workers mobile and your IT assets in the cloud and then have the network that securely connects them all be anchored to some physical office somewhere," he said. "Pertino is putting the network in the cloud."

Pertino is targeting SMBs with 10 to 250 users, including people who are on the road or working remotely and who are using cloud-based applications and storage. "We put the network on the cloud so users can be on their business network as if they were sitting in the office," he said. "It's secure, elastic and built as a service."

Many companies sit in what Krautkremer called a "partly cloudy" world.

"Part of their business is in the cloud, like their Exchange data, and part is in on-site legacy apps, like MPR [manufacturing resource planning]," he said. "For these customers, who make up the majority of SMBs today, a cloud-based network can seamlessly bridge both worlds and aid in migrating between them while providing unified access, visibility, and control."

Much of the recent surge in interest in SDN technology has revolved around software-only offerings like that of Nicira, which last month was acquired by VMware, or software and hardware infrastructure such as those being developed by Brocade and Cisco.

NEXT: Building Virtual Business Networks Across The Cloud

Such technologies are targeting ways to re-design data center networks to make them more flexible, unlike Pertino, which wants to run customers' virtual networks across existing cloud data center networking infrastructures.

Nicira, for instance, is focused on cloud computing data centers where all the computing and storage resources are virtualized and elastic. But the networking infrastructure in those cloud data centers is still very physical, static and constrained, which creates a major point of friction when it comes to provisioning existing services and creating new services, Pertino's Krautkremer said. Nicira eliminates this friction by virtualizing data center networks and harmonizing them with the surrounding infrastructure, he said.

Pertino's technology, on the other hand, creates virtual networks that overlay existing IP access and transport networks such as those from Comcast, AT&T, British Telecom and similar providers through which customers cannot swap out or directly control the underlying infrastructure. "The advantage of this approach is your secure network is everywhere, at Starbucks via Wi-Fi, or at home via your DSL router," Krautkremer said.

While latency exists for operations running in the cloud, it is not a primary concern for Pertino's SMB target market, Krautkremer said.

Cloud latency issues for enterprises have been largely solved by companies such as Packeteer, which developed technology that dealt with the issue by giving bandwidth priority to mission-critical traffic, and by a current crop of WAN optimization technology developers.

"Enterprises have been addressing the latency issue with boxes on the edge of the network," he said. "Small businesses have the same issues but not the resources to buy equipment to prioritize the traffic. Our vision is to put these capabilities in the cloud and use the power and economics of the cloud to transform their cost and complexity for SMBs."

The other issue related to latency is proximity of the network service to the data source. "If we find a lot of users in Palm Beach, Fla., we can spin up more capacity in Palm Beach to connect them closer to where they live," Krautkremer said

NEXT: Pertino Goes All-Virtual, With No Physical IT

Pertino knows first-hand the importance of a virtual business network. The company runs its entire IT business infrastructure in the cloud, including for CRM, Marketo for marketing automation and lead nurturing, Intacct for accounting, and others. Pertino has no physical servers, storage or networking gear, but instead depends on the cloud for its IT infrastructure.

Common to both Pertino's product and business IT strategies is the ability to leverage cloud elasticity and economics on a demand and subscription basis to reduce operating costs, Pertino’s Krautkremer said. "So we can turn services up or down depending on our business traction," he said. "As a startup, that capability is immensely valuable."

Pertino's product is currently in stealth mode, and it is expected to come to market sometime in the first quarter of 2013.