A two year old Massachusetts-based startup has hit it big with a front end switch for Web server farms and network cache server clusters. The company just raised $15.3 million in its third round of funding. The company's devices will switch traffic based on requested content by looking at HTTP payload information, like a URL, instead of just identifying network addresses, explained Arrowpoint Communications' chief executive officer Cheng Wu. "We believe that we are fundamentally different because of our switch's content intelligence," said Wu, who set up and designed the device.
Another company, Alteon Networks, is also talking about speeding the transfer of similar flows of data, such as HTTP (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol) or File Transfer Protocol traffic. And competition also comes from such established players as Check Point Software and Cisco Systems.
Wu pointed out that there is plenty of business to go around. "More than a million new Web sites are going up every year," he said, "If we can penetrate even a small percentage of those, we'll do well."
Arrowpoint's Web switches, the CS-100 and CS-800, can modify content based on URL and browser cookies that store information about a user's identity and preferences. This allows the switches to direct traffic and prioritise bandwidth based on set policies.
"We're providing intelligence at the end of the network and performing functions like admission control and content location. Caching becomes important as a way of moving content closer to users but that, in turn, requires more intelligence within the network to direct people to the optimum source of content," said Erv Johnson, Arrowpoint's director of marketing. "The only way to provide that intelligence is to look at a higher layer in the protocol stack."
Wu added that Arrowpoint's target customers involve a new class of service providers, such as ISPs, Web hosting companies and e-commerce providers, who use Web servers and need Web switches. Such companies include Time Warner's Road Runner, Navisite and Pointcast.
"In the Web era, unlike the client-server era, the client is ubiquitous, allowing vendors to build server-side only technology," Wu said. He added with the new influx of cash, he hopes to grow the company quickly, bringing $20 million revenue in 1999. Investors such as North Bridge Venture Partners, Bowman Capital and Pequot Capital Management have supplied a total of $33.5 million into the two year old company.
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