Juniper V.C. Invests In Gainspeed

Leads ‘B’ Round In Startup That’s Developing a Distributed Cable Broadband Platform

Juniper Strategic Investments, a V.C. arm of optics and telecom gear and software supplier Juniper Networks, confirmed exclusively to Multichannel News that it has led a “B” round of funding in Gainspeed, a startup that is quietly developing a distributed broadband platform tailored for the cable industry.

Juniper is expected to make a formal announcement of the investment later Wednesday morning.

Juniper and Gainspeed declined to disclose how much was raised in the latest round of funding or identify who else participated in the round.

Gainspeed -- led by CEO Drew Perkins, the former chief technology officer of Infinera, and founded by Terayon Communication Systems co-founder Shlomo Rakib -- landed $22.8 million in funding last fall, marking a rare investment in a startup whose core focus is cable. Andreessen Horowitz, a firm founded by Marc Andreessen, Shasta Ventures, and New Enterprise Associates are among its backers.

Gainspeed (formerly known as Cohere Networks and founded in 2012) has also kept quiet about the products it's developing. According to industry sources, the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company is working on a virtualized form of the Converged Cable Access Platform, while others have referred to it as a “micro” cable modem termination system  (CMTS) platform that will distribute capacity on the cable network. By keeping the digital signal intact down to the node, the general approach is designed to boost network efficiency and deliver faster speeds. Arris Group, Cisco Systems, Harmonic, Casa Systems and Aurora Networks (soon to become part of Pace) are among the companies Gainspeed will compete with.

Gainspeed’s purported approach is also coming into play as the cable industry continues work on DOCSIS 3.1, a CableLabs spec that is shooting for multi-gigabit speeds, and begins to look at  virtualized forms of broadband access architectures. CableLabs revealed this week at the SCTE Cable-Tec Expo in Atlanta that it expects to complete the DOCSIS 3.1 specs by the end of October.

Gainspeed is apparently making significant progress on the product development front. Jeff Heynen, the principal analyst for broadband access and pay TV at Infonetics Research, said he saw a private demonstration of Gainspeed’s platform at the show. He characterized the product as strand-mounted optical node, noting that the prototype shown this week was far enough along to support live traffic. "The secret sauce is in the software," Heynen said.

The Gainspeed investment should help to expand Juniper’s cable strategy. Officials for Juniper said Gainspeed’s technology is a logical fit with its strategy to help cable operators to centralize the control of their networks while also distributing processing through the use of software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV).

This is not the first time Juniper has pursued a CMTS product strategy. In 2001, Juniper bought CMTS startup Pacific Broadband Communications for $200 million in stock. The product did not gain much traction, and Juniper shut it down in 2003, opting instead for a partnership that enabled it to co-market CMTSs from Arris temporarily.

Juniper’s investments in startups have occasionally led to outright acquisitions. In 2010, it bought Altor, a developer of a hypervisor-based firewall for securing virtualized data centers and clouds, and purchased SDN software specialist Contrail Systems in 2012.