Adding to its collection of network functions virtualization (NFV) pieces, Brocade has announced a deal to acquire Connectem, a startup that’s been working on a virtual evolved packet core (vEPC) for LTE networks.
The deal was announced Monday morning, European time, making the start of Mobile World Congress even busier for Connectem CEO Nishi Kant (pictured). When I met with a weary Kant at about noon, he told me his day had started at 4:00 a.m.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but then again, Connectem is fairly small — 40 people in a company founded in 2011.
The Connectem team will report to Ken Cheng, Brocade‘s chief technology officer.
RELATED: Check out all our MWC coverage here
Connectem hasn’t revealed how much money it raised, but Brocade was one of the investors, Kant says.
The vEPC got lots of attention as NFV first rolled out. In addition to Connectem, startup Affirmed started offering pieces of a vEPC, work that led to AT&T picking Affirmed as a supplier under the Domain 2.0 initiative.
But the bigger vendors — Ericsson and Cisco, in particular — have developed vEPCs, too. Connectum has some telco customers secured, but the backing of a big company is arguably more valuable at this point.
The difference is that Connectem was able to start from scratch, Kant says. Other architectures arose from moving functions out of physical boxes and into virtual form. “For many, the virtualization was an afterthought,” he says.
The EPC consists of several different functions, and Connectem allows each of them to grow independently; they’re no longer intertwined.
That caught the eye of Telekom Austria, whose Croatian subsidiary Vipnet did a demo with Connectem’s Virtual Core for Mobile (VCM) last summer.
That relationship has since blossomed. Last week, Telekom Austria announced the deployment of a fully virtualized LTE stack in the live network of its Serbian subsidiary, Vip Mobile. Multiple vendors were involved, including Connectem for its virtual CPE and Metaswitch for Clearwater, its virtual IMS product.
“This whole thing was done in a matter of weeks,” Kant says. “In a traditional architecture, it would be 12 to 18 months or more.”
Kant’s guess is that the progress with Telekom Austria and other unannounced European carriers convinced Brocade to pull the trigger on an acquisition. Connectem “had options” for raising another round of funding, he says, but decided to go with Brocade because the company doesn’t have an EPC in its portfolio. Brocade has nothing to lose by going whole-hog with a virtual EPC.
Brocade’s plan is to integrate Connectem’s Virtual Core for Mobile (VCM) into Brocade’s Ethernet fabric, which also includes the Vyatta controller and Vyatta virtual router. Brocade had already taken some steps to add applications to the fabric — including analytics and the recently acquired SteelApp, a virtual application development controller (vADC) purchased from Riverbed last month.
MWC Disclosure: Craig Matsumoto was rejected for a Mobile World Congress press pass. He is attending MWC 2015 on a pass supplied by Brocade and plans to use the Ericsson stand as an ersatz press room.