Akanda exits stealth and promises better routing in virtualized networks

Akanda, a San Francisco-based startup that aims to improve routing in a virtualized network, has come out of stealth and taken a seed-funding round of $1.5 million. Web-hosting provider DreamHost helped co-found the company and supplied all of the seed-round funding.

The two-man shop, less than a month old, is led by CEO Henrik Rosendahl, a virtualization veteran who recently helped sell CloudVolumes to [company]VMware[/company].

The technology behind Akanda was created to improve virtual routing within DreamHost’s own cloud infrastructure, explained Jonathan LaCour, VP of cloud at [company]DreamHost[/company] and a technical advisor to Akanda. Although NFV promises better networking performance and lower costs (virtualizing every part of the network cuts down on having to use tons of hardware gear) the technology is still developing and not all of its benefits are realized, especially regarding routing.

Even though companies like [company]Nicira[/company] had technology that could virtualize networking functions in layer 2, there hasn’t been a lot of action in layer 3, where intelligent routing with IP addresses and other routing protocols take place, said LaCour. Akanda supposedly virtualizes layer 3 network functions while also supporting IPv6, the next-generation IP address standard that allows for many more IP addresses to exist.

“The long and short of it is, there’s been a large gap in the market with no virtual routing in OpenStack,” said LaCour. “We wanted to create it on our own.”

Akanda’s open-source software integrates with other OpenStack networking services like Neutron; whereas Neutron acts as OpenStack’s main networking as a service, its layer 3 capabilities are limited. DreamHost apparently runs the Akanda software in production in its own cloud, where it supports “thousands of VMs and supporting tenants running in the cloud,” said LaCour.

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Akanda plans to make money around its orchestration service called the Akanda Rug, which the company will sell to enterprises, explained Rosendahl. If folks want to use the core Akanda software to virtualize their Layer 3 network, they can download that code from GitHub, said Rosendahl. But if they want to automate networking tasks like the spinning up of VMs or setting up configurations, they’ll have to pony up some cash, he said.

What makes Akanda different than other SDN and NFV vendors is its plan to target webscale companies and cloud providers as opposed to simply telecoms, which have traditionally called for SDN and NFV innovation.

“A company like DreamHost cannot afford [company]Cisco[/company] or [company]VMware[/company] gear in order to maintain a competitive edge,” said LaCour. “It is out of survival that this innovation has happened.”

Last week, DreamHost released a wider-beta version of its DreamCompute public cloud, which was notable because OpenStack deployments have traditionally been the stuff of the private cloud.

Post and thumbnail images courtesy of Shutterstock user Art of Life.

Update: Article clarified with updated founding team information and new figure