What would you think of a big time investment banker who ran from meeting to meeting with a Motorola M900 Bag Phone slung over his shoulder?
What about a local bank that was outfitted with only first generation iMacs?
Or, what if you worked for a local startup where, as you quickly booted up your MacBook Air, you heard the shriek, buzz, and low roar of dial-up internet snailing into action?
These scenarios seem absurd with all of the technological advances that have been made with cellular communications, computing, and the internet over the past ten to fifteen years.
And yet, almost no one, in any industry, uses networking hardware or solutions that have advanced beyond where they were over a dozen years.
Locally-based networking solutions company Plexxi has created a product that is already starting to shake-up the networking technology sector that has been mostly stagnant, and has relied on overly-complicated and expensive hardware/software, for the past decade or more.
Started by a team of Boston-area networking and computing veterans, Plexxi has combined older network technologies with innovative software to outfit companies with networks that are as advanced as the systems and applications being run on them.
As Plexxi CEO and Founder David Husak explained, “What we are essentially doing [is producing] the first enterprise networking products that employ optical and electronic switching side by side.” For the past twenty or so years, Husak said, everything has been done optically, mainly because developing an alternative was more expensive.
Advances in manufacturing have changed that equation. “Some of the parts we are using to build our gear,” Husak said, “would have cost a thousand times as much ten or fifteen years ago.”
Plexxi realized that no improvements have been made in networking technology to match the rapid innovation in the software and hardware that interacts with networks. They solved the discrepancy by combining a technology that was once too expensive to use with updated networking technology and software.
“We are the first guys to figure out how to employ it very economically in computing, in data centers, and in cloud providers,” Husak explained. Plexxi is “harnessing that 20,000-to-1 advantage” of using a both a cheaper and more advanced way of building networks. “It puts us on a roadmap, and a scaling and a performance trajectory,” he added, “that the conventional networking guys simply cannot compete with.”
Echoes of Networkings Past
Husak has been in the game for a long time, and compares the opportunity he sees with Plexxi to similar successful projects that he was involved with decades ago.
A veteran of the Boston technology scene, Husak started working for Apollo Computer in the 80’s. He then started Synernetics, “one of the first ethernet switching companies in the world.” When Synernetics was bought by 3Com in 1994, ‘switching’ was on its way to being the de-facto networking technology. Husak’s company foresaw that and became a major player in networking in the late 90's. Husak sees something similar with Plexxi’s current opportunity.
The Need for Network Innovation
Although comparable, there is something a bit different happening with networking today, as Husak says, “The appetite for alternatives is unlike anything in my career and harkens back to the period in the 90’s where LAN’s became switch companies.”
The “appetite for alternatives” to the current state of networking arises from something Husak observed while working for RFID company Reva Systems.
“I was struck by the fact, walking through these state-of-the-art facilities, that they are still networked with gear that they’ve been selling for a dozen years,” Husak said. “When you look at what a server is in 2010 compared to where it was decade earlier, it is barely recognizable,” he added. "It is the same thing with storage and the same thing with telecom services.”
“Every other constituent technology that is [part of] modern computing infrastructure has transformed in the past decade to something unrecognizable from what it was,” Husak explained. “And network was literally the same product.”
The need to update networking was obvious, and the response to Plexxi has been overwhelmingly. Plexxi started offering its networking solution on a trial basis last year and has made Plexxi available to everyone since November. Husak said that his first customer’s were extremely happy with the improved technology and the impact on the bottom line. “The feedback is unique in my experience.” He added, “That deep suspicion that I had uncovered in 2010, has in 2011 and 2012 became absolute certainty.”
With its headquarters in Cambridge, a development facility in Nashua, and a new office in Silicon Valley, Plexxi is poised to make major waves in the networking sector.
They have already raised three rounds of funding, equalling over $48 million, from North Bridge Venture Partners, Matrix Partners, and California’s Lightspeed Venture Partners. Additionally, they have had two successful quarters of steady revenue since officially launching in November.
“It’s been a fifteen or twenty year run for switching,” Husak concluded. “It was a good run, but we are looking for the next fifteen or twenty year cycle.”
Husak, who was right before, believes that Plexxi is what that future looks like.
Dennis Keohane is a staff writer for VentureFizz. You can follow Dennis on Twitter (@DBKeohane) by clicking here.