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Certeon Asserts Accelerator

Posted by inet - 2006-02-15

Is there room in the world for another WAN accelerator? If Massachusetts startup Certeon can support its claims, there just might be.
Though Certeon was founded in 2003, it's only now surfacing with a WAN acceleration appliance called the S-Series. The vendor claims the rackmount unit can improve the performance of certain applications by up to 1,000 times. It also maintains that its gear can accelerate traffic that uses Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption (think VPNs), without touching the encryption.

While boasts of ever-faster acceleration are commonplace in this market, Certeon's claim to accelerate encrypted SSL traffic is something new. Up to now, most WAN accelerators have worked by decrypting traffic, compressing it, then re-encrypting it -- or offering supplemental encryption as part of the optimizer. "In general, encryption makes it hard to optimize data," says Liad Ofek, VP of support for Expand Networks Inc., which offers its own IPsec encryption for accelerated traffic between data centers and branch offices.

Certeon's ability to view encrypted traffic is an offshoot of its ability to interpret "application semantics" and come up with specific "blueprints" to compress data, shorten session protocols, and transmit only what's changed to a remote user.

Right now, Certeon is offering so-called blueprints, or special compression schemes, for the following applications: Oracle eApplication Suite, MS Office System, and MS Sharepoint. The vendor can accelerate other applications as well, though it doesn't make the same dramatic compression claims for them. Still, apps can be accelerated whether they are encrypted or not.

Certeon execs say they've been testing the new product for six to nine months and already have about six customers, including cardiovascular device maker St. Jude Medical and Energizer Holdings Inc., the battery company. Neither firm will speak to reporters.

Three models of the Certeon S-Series are currently shipping, and prices start at $6,000. The gear supports WAN rates from 1 to 15 Mbit/s, making it suitable chiefly for private-line applications.

Certeon may talk big, but it's not alone. The market for WAN optimizers has heated up considerably in recent months. Lots of firms have sought to combine selective data compression for network optimization with an approach called Wide-Area File Services (WAFS), which deploys file caching to help transport traffic to remote sites. There also have been notable acquisitions, such as the purchase of FineGround by Cisco last year.  And more startups have emerged, including the likes of Silver-Peak.

Certeon will be challenged to make good its claims against this growing roster of players, many of whom, like Packeteer, are well established. Can a 35-employee startup hope to compete?

Certeon CEO Peter Dougherty (ex-EMC) acknowledges the challenge: "We're coming in late to a market, but we are making products that drive enterprise work and we are doing it securely."

Certeon chief scientist Jeffrey Black (who helped found Omnia and Magnalink, acquired by Ciena and Telco Systems, respectively) sees the possibilities in Certeon's technology. "Our WAN architecture is applicable in a lot of areas. Right now, migration to Web technology makes that a natural place to enter the market." Certeon has five patents on its blueprint technique.

Certeon has $6 million in funding from Globespan Capital Partners and Sigma Partners.

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