Embrane has been quiet for a few months, but executives insist that’s not a sign of trouble. Specifically, they say a Series C round of funding is still being finalized, contrary to rumors last week that the financing had fallen through.
The startup did have to trim staff, CEO Dante Malagrinò tells SDNCentral, but in a minor way. Headcount is more than 40, down from a peak of nearly 50, he says. (This implies a single-digit layoff, but single digits can be pretty significant if you’ve only got 50 people.) The company simply “invested ahead of the market” based on the optimism it was hearing from potential customers, Malagrinò says.
Nailing down those customers has been the tricky part for Embrane. Sources outside the company believe Embrane has been struggling. Malagrinò and Vice President of Marketing John Vincenzo say they’re on the verge of announcing more deals, but so far, Embrane hasn’t had much followup to a well publicized win with Peer 1 in February.
Embrane has raised $27 million in funding, including an $18 million Series B announced in mid-2011.
Embrane was an early startup entry in software-defined networking (SDN), choosing to focus on Layer 4-7 rather than on OpenFlow. The company connects virtualized appliances, such as firewalls and load balancers, via Layer 3 overlays. The resulting service container can be deployed, moved, and deactivated as a unit.
Whether people are ready to buy a platform for this is still a question. Embrane does offer the individual pieces, such as a firewall and a load balancer — but while the piece-parts might have more market appeal at the moment, they face a lot more competition.
Embrane isn’t alone in the way it visualizes SDN services. Juniper made service chains a central part of its SDN pitch, and Plexxi lumps services together into want it calls affinities. Cisco, with its Application-Centric Infrastructure (ACI), is talking in terms of application containers, although it’s relying on partners, including Embrane, to provide the Layer 4-7 pieces that would make up a service.
Along those lines, sources think Embrane would make a reasonable acquisition for Cisco, if the whole being-a-startup thing doesn’t work out. There’s a pretty obvious connection: Malagrinò came from Cisco and was part of Andiamo, the company’s first spin-in. That same spin-in team was at the heart of Insieme, which developed ACI and is now being acquired back into Cisco.