Auvik, Started By A Sandvine Co-Founder And An Ex-BlackBerry CTO, Gets $6M To Take Enterprise Network Control To The Cloud

Auvik Networks, a Canadian enterprise networking startup co-founded by repeat entrepreneur Marc Morin (co-founder of now-public Sandvine and of PixStream, sold to Cisco); David Yach, a former CTO of BlackBerry’s software division; and ex-Sandvine product manager Alex Hoff, is today announcing that it’s raised it first round of outside funding: $6 million from Celtic House Venture Partners, Rho Canada Ventures, and BDC Venture Capital IT Fund, along with more contributions from Auvik’s founders, who have been backing it internally it to date. Auvik is part of a wider trend of companies working in software-defined networking, in its case developing a cloud-based platform for enterprises to manage IP networks built out of hardware from multiple vendors. Auvik has yet to release a commercial product: that will only come at the beginning of 2014, according to Morin, who is the company’s CEO.

“We’ve been focusing on the core technology and bringing the product out and bring it to market,” he told TechCrunch, noting that this round is being led by investors that were also strong backers of his previous startups. “This should be enough until launch.” The plan, he says, is for Auvik to support “all major hardware.”

To match how Auvik plans to disrupt traditional networking, Morin says that Auvik will also be priced in a disruptive way: there will be three tiers — See, Tell and Do — ranging from free of charge to a fee of about $12 per device per month, covering such things as community membership, and data collection, through to configuration services, 24-hour support and deeper analysis.

Enterprise startups continue to remain a focus for VCs, even as their attention gets distracted by the buzz around the next big thing, be it bitcoin or 3D printing.

One of the reasons is because there are still so many areas left to tackle in the space, cluttered as it is with legacy IT services and hardware.  It is here that Auvik sits. Up to now, businesses (especially those that are big enough to have multiple locations, but perhaps not big enough to have huge IT support groups) have had to deploy people to reconfigure networks physically, partly because it’s difficult to get hardware from different vendors to “speak” to each other. Using an API-style approach by way of the open-standard OpenFlow, the idea is that Auvik will become easy for anyone, not just IT engineers, to reconfigure and control how a network operates.

“Networking has been about hardware and boxes, but the focus now is on how people use software to control things,” noted Morin. “No one should have to configure routers and switches anymore.”

While a lot of the early emphasis will be on operating devices and users on a company’s network of desktop devices, the plan is for this to also include the many mobile devices that are also becoming more powerful and more used by workers. This is one area where Yach’s expertise, which spans not just BlackBerry but also years at Sybase, should come in handy.

Morin says that at the moment Auvik counts companies like SolarWinds and Meraki (recently acquired by Cisco for $1.2 billion) as among its competitors. But he contends that Auvik will be taking a different approach from them. Tackling the idea of multi-vendor architectures — a common occurence at many medium-sized companies — Auvik is trying to make it as easy as possible for non-engineering IT people to use its platform, also a crucial priority for the size of companies that it’s proposing to target. “The real promise is a dramatically simpler way to configure how an application can be run.”

The other important point is that Auvik says it will, for the first time, provide a cloud-based way for enterprises to go deep into how their networks are controlled.

He uses the instance of a finance group’s network access as one example, with the idea that these people may log in on more than one device. “Say you want to put a policy on the finance group so that they can go straight to the finance server, and you want to enforce that, but the network doesn’t identify users, just IP addresses,” he says. “Using our platform, you can now join these up and change network configurations based on that, and modify it during the day as users log in and log out. Network management has been around for a long time, but it hasn’t had a very deep level of abstraction for how it works.” Morin says that most of the capabilities of hardware are never exploited by medium-sized companies, and so its service will aim to take advantage of that well, extending the life and functionality of that equipment.