DriveNets Nets $208 Million to Expand Cloud Routing

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By: Mary Jander

DriveNets, which has a software-based routing solution for telecommunications carriers, has scored $208 million in Series B funding, bringing its total raised to $325 million and its valuation to unicorn status of over $1 billion.

DriveNets, founded in 2016 by Ido Susan and Hillel Kobrinsky, is part of a disruptive market shift toward disaggregated routing software for use in hyperscale networks. Like rivals Arrcus and Volta Networks, DriveNets aims to replace proprietary chassis from vendors such as Arista (ANET), Cisco (CSCO), and Juniper (JNPR) with a software-based routing stack that runs on cheaper, white-box hardware.

To this end, DriveNets offers its Network Cloud routing software for use on pizza boxes from original design manufacturers (ODMs) UFISpace, Edgecore Networks, and Delta. Each box typically runs Broadcom chips and handles 4 Tbit/s capacity, scalable to 768 Tbit/s in a configuration of 192 linked boxes.

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DriveNets also offers an Orchestrator package to manage, configure, troubleshoot, and monitor its cloud-native routers. That product also features application programming interfaces (APIs) for integration with third-party products.

Where DriveNets Runs

Little is known about the full customer list for DriveNets, but the startup claims at least 30 hyperscale clients worldwide. And DriveNets scored a major win in 2020 when AT&T (T) adopted its Network Cloud routing software with Broadcom Jericho2 chips running in white-box hardware from UfiSpace.

That setup, based on a design that AT&T contributed to the Open Compute Project’s architecture for a distributed disaggregated chassis (DDC), is running in AT&T’s core IP/MPLS network as well as in AT&T edge applications such as peering with other Internet service providers (ISPs).

With fresh funding, it is likely that DriveNets will look to replicate its AT&T success with carriers and cloud vendors in Europe and Asia. The vendor has mentioned Vodafone, Telefonica, Deutsche Telekom, KDDI, and Rakuten Mobile as Tier 1 carriers with an interest in disaggregated routing. These and other players could be among potential customers, particularly as 5G networking introduces the need for virtualization at the edge.

Notably, in today's announcement, CEO Susan said DriveNets' fresh funding will be used “to expand our product offerings and our reach to more leading operators and cloud providers” in “new geographies.”

DriveNets In the Bigger Picture

DriveNets is part of a trend toward multi-cloud networking (MCN) that includes a range of new companies that have disaggregated the functions of routers, switches, and other data center gear and created virtualized, cloud-native stacks in place of monolithic boxes. This approach is vital to supporting multiple clouds in enterprise networks.

Significantly, the big router and switch vendors have hopped on the disaggregation bandwagon with solutions of their own. Juniper, for instance, is intent on shifting to a software model. Its recent purchase of Apstra could boost that move, aided by Apstra’s support for multiple switch and router vendors, as well as its support of software for open networking in the cloud (SONiC), which has emerged as an open standard for disaggregation.

Meanwhile, DriveNets is charging hard, armed with its sizeable purse. This round was led by D1 Capital Partners with contributions from existing investors Bessemer Venture Partners and Pitango Growth. New investor Atreides Management also participated in the round. Previous investors in DriveNets have included, among other individuals, Steve Luczo, former CEO of Seagate (STX) and its current chairman of the board; Mark McLaughlin, former CEO of Palo Alto Networks (PANW); and John Thompson, chairman of the board of Microsoft (MSFT).