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Startups launch verification technology to help manage networks

Forward Networks and Veriflow Systems have introduced verification technology to help engineers manage corporate networks.

Two startups have launched products that let companies discover in advance potential networking problems that could arise after changing device configurations or application policies.

Forward Networks Inc. and Veriflow Systems made their respective verification technology products available this week. Forward Networks, based in Palo Alto, Calif., launched as a company along with the product release. Veriflow, based in San Jose, Calif., announced in April it would release the product this year.

Despite some subtle differences, "the basics [of the two products] are very similar," said Dan Conde, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group Inc., based in Milford, Mass. But while neither vendor is unique, "this is not yet a common product category. It is still emerging."

The verification technology products extract data from physical or virtual firewalls, load balancers, routers and switches. The vendors' algorithms then process the information to create an interactive model of the corporate network, based on packet and data flows.

Network managers can run planned configuration and policy changes against the models to determine what could break. If a company, for example, wanted to implement policies that isolate credit card transactions on the network, then engineers could test the rules in advance to make sure the segmented traffic is secure and problem-free.

"If we find a vulnerability, then you'll see it visualized," Veriflow CTO Brighten Godfrey said of the company's product. "You can see exactly what can go wrong."

Forward Networks asserts the search engine it built on top of its verification technology is a differentiator. "The key strengths of the platform are giving you answers around search," said company CEO David Erickson.

The search engine lets a network operator quickly find the paths of all data moving from point A to point B on the network, Erickson said. An engineer, for example, could get all the data flows between a database and application server in a three-tier web application to help locate the source of performance problems.

"Once you know where the packets are going, then you can correlate and resolve it from there," Erickson said.

Forward Networks, Veriflow verification technology complement other tools

The verification technology developed by the two vendors does not replace traditional network management tools, Conde said.

"I would not call them a new form of management tool that supplants what we see today," he said. Instead, the products "augment what enterprises have today, or what they accomplish through trial and error or manual processes."

Forward Networks and Veriflow did not release pricing. The vendors sell their products through a per-device annual subscription fee. The technology is sold as virtualized software that can run on premises. Cloud-based versions are also available.

Veriflow has raised $8.2 million in funding from Menlo Ventures and New Enterprise Associates. Forward Networks has raised $11 million and is backed by venture capitalist Andreessen Horowitz.

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