The Super Secret Startup That's Going To Save Cisco Just Had Its Coming Out Party (Sort Of)

Soni Jiandani, CiscoSoni Jiandani, Senior VP of Insieme Networks.

Insieme Networks, a stealthy startup founded last year by three Cisco execs, inched out of the shadows Wednesday at the Cisco Live customer conference in Orlando, Fla. 

But anyone expecting details about Insieme Networks’ products would’ve been disappointed. 

Insieme is Cisco’s response to a tech called software defined networking (SDN), which turns the high end features Cisco builds into its routers and switches into software that can run on cheaper hardware. 

Cisco hasn’t said much about Insieme, and industry watchers are eager to know how it’ll counter the SDN threat. 

In a presentation, Soni Jiandani, Senior VP of Insieme Networks, said when Insieme products arrive later this year, they’ll use a combination of hardware and software to solve data centre tech challenges. 

That was pretty much the gist of it.

GigaOm’s Stacey Higginbotham said Jiandani “did little more than tease the future products on Insieme,” while Network Computing’s Andrew Conry Murray described her talk as “frustratingly information-free.” 

VMware snapped up SDN startup Nicira last July for $1.2 billion, and networking vendors are all peddling their own SDN tech. So, Cisco needs to show that it’s got a plan here, too. 

But Cisco says Insieme isn’t its response to SDN, but a tech that’s much better for data centres.

In a Wednesday blog post, Padmasree Warrior, Cisco’s chief technical and strategy officer, said SDN so far “can’t meet the needs of applications because it mimics the old model of networking.”

Basically, Warrior is saying Insieme will let apps run in data centres more smoothly because they’re in tune with the hardware they’re running on. 

“Imagine if every time you bought a new smartphone app, you had to manually configure your device’s screen resolution, graphics card, keyboard, broadband connection etc. In the data centre, the process is this manual, complicated, slow, and thereby expensive,” Warrior said in the blog post. 

Cisco invested $100 million in Insieme last year and has the option to buy it for an extra $750 million, Quentin Hardly of The New York Times reported last April

Insieme is what’s known as a “spin-in”, where employees leave a company to form their own startup, and return when the company acquires their startup. If all goes well, Insieme would be Cisco’s third spin-in. 

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