Anagran Launches: The Return of Larry Roberts

[qi:033] Dr. Larry Roberts, one of the key people that helped build ARPAnet, the precursor to the modern Internet, is taking a second shot at entrepreneurship with Anagran, a Redwood City, Calif.-based start-up that’s building an intelligent flow router designed to enhance the quality of packet-based networks.
The company has raised $28 million in funding from Advanced Technology Ventures, Arrowpath Venture Capital, Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Argon Venture Partners. (We wrote about the company back when it raised some early VC dollars.)
Roberts’ previous company, Caspian Networks, flamed out after blowing through over $300 million. Unlike the last time, Roberts argues that Anagran is benefitting from the progress made in chip technologies and leveraging powerful off-the-shelf technologies.

A flow is a single meaningful end-to-end activity over the network, and is defined by the IPv4 header 5-tuple of source and destination port, source and destination address, and protocol. Examples of flows would be a video download, a voice call, or an image transfer.

Anagran’s device is essentially the next generation of traffic management, a concept that Roberts has talked about in the past. As video, voice and other specialized traffic flows on IP networks, Roberts argues that a packet-based approach isn’t going to work. When a video is being streamed, any dropped packets can cause quality degradation. Voice-over-IP services also have similar issues. However, if the router is focused on an entire stream (or flow) of video or voice, it can manage them more intelligently, and take corrective measures. In addition, Anagran is also well-positioned for the IPv6 transition, since IPv6 has the same flow-type characteristics.
“This really is the router of the future,” he told EETimes. Others disagree.

“While there are certainly benefits to [Anagran’s] approach, I don’t necessarily see it as a superior alternative [to typical routers],” David Vorhaus, analyst with The Yankee Group told Telephony Online.

Despite the pedigree of the founder, the fact remains that getting into the router-market and squaring off against Cisco Systems (CSCO) and Juniper Networks (JNPR) is not an easy task. Several have failed, and others have had to embrace equally large players like Alcatel-Lucent (ALA) to earn a living. We will keep an eye on this one: it is, after all, Larry Roberts!