Aella Data, a security company founded by former Juniper Networks, Fortinet, Barracuda, and Aerohive executives, exited stealth mode with its artificial intelligence-based breach detection platform Starlight.
The AI startup will officially launch at RSA Conference later this month. It competes against other cybersecurity startups using AI and machine-learning to automate threat detection and response such as Darktrace, Vectra Networks, ProtectWise, StackRox, and Jask.
What makes Aella Data different, according to chief product officer John Peterson, is that the company’s security software can be deployed across all network infrastructures. This includes containers, public and private clouds, virtual machines (VMs), and bare metal servers. It unifies and analyzes all of the data it collects and spits out actionable alerts.
“There’s this pervasive deployment whereas some of our competitors can only monitor part of the infrastructure,” said Peterson. “If you don’t monitor everything you are only as strong as your weakest link.”
He said the platform reduces detection time from 200 days to minutes and alert volume from thousands to the few critical ones. “The way you do that, after collecting all the data, is with big-data analytics and AI and machine learning,” Peterson said. “If it takes 200 days for a human or humans to detect a breach, imagine if you have a computer that could do it at warp speed and solve the whole data problem of not enough data, too much data, data with no context.”
Distributed Security Intelligence
Starlight is built on patent-pending technology Aella Data calls “distributed security intelligence” architecture. This essentially distributes data collection, processing, and breach detection across various environments. “We use the right detections at the right locations at the right time in a distributed fashion, versus trying to do every single thing in one single appliance, which would be too heavy and too cost prohibitive,” Peterson said. “We have multiple pieces of software distributed to do different things.”
It uses multiple machine learning algorithms, which Peterson said improve context and breach detection.
It also uses another patent-pending technology called AellaFlow. This is an alternative to NetFlow, a feature used by other network monitoring and breach detection products. The company says AellaFlow reduces raw data up to 100-to-one and improves data quality.
Starlight integrates with existing perimeter defense, security information and event management (SIEM), and other security products. The product is geared toward enterprises and and managed security service providers (MSSPs). Customers include an autonomous vehicle maker that plans to deploy the security software in more than 100,000 self-driving cars over the next few years, and large-scale enterprises with data centers supporting tens-of-thousands of servers, Peterson said.
Another MSSP customer, CyFlare, sells its security services to small and medium businesses. “What they like about our tool is that we have multi-tenant capacity so they can spin up the platform and have multiple customers running on that platform,” Peterson said. This means a smaller company that can’t afford to spend $80,000 on AI-based security platform can purchase the technology at a lower price through an MSSP.
Warp Speed Ahead
Aella is Greek for whirlwind. “We wanted to create a fast-moving company and grow at warp speed,” Peterson said. “Data because data is paramount and when it comes to AI if you use a limited data set you’re going to get a limited answer. So we collect all of the data to get a complete answer.”
Peterson previously was general manager and vice president at both Comodo Enterprise and Barracuda Networks, and held executive roles with NetScreen, Fortinet, and Juniper.
Aella Data CEO and co-founder Changming Liu was previously co-founder and CTO of Aerohive. Before founding Aerohive he was a distinguished engineer at Juniper and a key architect of NetScreen, which raised $160 million in its initial public offering before Juniper acquired it for $3.63 billion in 2004.
Vice president of corporate and business development Paul Jespersen was most recently a VP at Lastline and Comodo Enterprise.
Aella Data is backed by NetScreen co-founder Feng Deng and his venture firm, Northern Light Venture Capital, as well as other security industry veterans and angel investors. Peterson said the company raised a “significant” seed round and plans to raise additional funding this year.