SDN in action: Pertino service lets users turn up a network without buying a switch, router or server

Pertino Networks wants to make accessing networking services just as easy as spinning up and using cloud resources.

The Silicon Valley-based startup has been readying its cloud-based networking as a service (NaaS) product for more than three years and today it's available for anyone to sign up for. Pertino uses software to create networks and let users manage who and what devices have access to them, all without the need to buy any hardware equipment. This is cloud-based software-defined networking (SDN) in action.

Users access Pertino Networks through a web-based or mobile application, which then connects them into the Pertino system. Individual users can create networks that connect up to 10 devices for as little as $29 a month, or $290 a year.

+MORE AT NETWORK WORLD: The difference between SDN, Network virtualization and network functions virtualization (NFV)  | Enterprise SDN use lags behind service providers +

Pertino brings the beauty of cloud computing - no required upfront investments in capital hardware - to networking. Users can literally spin up a network that supports thousands of users and just pay for a per-connected device plan, without ever buying a switch, router or server.

Pertino's SDN is made up of two parts: A control plane that houses all of the information about the users, security credentials and network topology; and a data plane running on top of cloud-based virtual machines that can scale horizontally and are fault tolerant. This architecture allows for massively large scaling, segmentation among users' networks and insulation from downtime from service providers Pertino works with, such as Amazon Web Services, Rackspace and others.

Having a cloud-based NaaS allows for much more flexibility in creating and managing networks. Whereas before setting up new networks and network connections to it would have required some hardware, IP and DNS configurations, instead Pertino's networks are managed all through a console. Users can share documents, folders and files all over the network. For example, IT managers set up networks specifically for third-party contractors to provide secure and IT-managed connections with a central office. Or in a home setting, users on the same network can share files and folders iTunes, for example.

Pertino is one of the first to market with this type of cloud-based SDN-powered NaaS, but there could be many more in the future. "I think this kind of cloud based network is ultimately a very big deal," says Peter Christy, 451 Research Group's networking guru. It's simple, he says: Mobile devices are increasingly supplanting desktops for work and more and more applications are delivered as a SaaS through the cloud. "With this new modality of IT, the enterprise network has to be in the cloud since neither end is necessarily on an enterprise network," he wrote in an email. 

Pertino isn't alone - Aryaka provides a NaaS, although it's delivered through a globally distributed point of presence (POP) system. Cisco bought Meraki - a company specializing in cloud-based networking - for $1.2 billion in 2012 and it's been talking recently about SDN for the WAN.

Pertino's networking platform has been running an open public beta since February of last year. In the fall it rolled out its AppScale store, which is a collection of free and paid applications that run on top of the networks. One free one allows for geo-tracking of users on the network. The company hopes to add significantly to its app store this year. Pertino is focused mostly on small and midsized businesses, which it says is an underserved market for networking technology that is ripe for consuming usage-priced networking services.

Pertino was founded in 2011, is based in Los Gatos, Calif., and has raised almost $29 million in venture financing. It was founded by Craig Elliott, a former Apple online services executive and more recently CEO of Packeteer Networks, which was sold to Blue Coast Systems for more than $250 million in 2008. As part of the general availability of the product today, it has also hired new product and sales executives to help accelerate its monetization strategy.

Senior Writer Brandon Butler covers cloud computing for Network World and NetworkWorld.com. He can be reached at BButler@nww.com and found on Twitter at @BButlerNWW. Read his Cloud Chronicles here.

Tags Configuration / maintenanceSDNCloudhardware systemsPertinointernetcloud computingData CenterLAN & WAN

More about Amazon Web ServicesAmazon Web ServicesApple Computers Australia Pty LtdCisco Systems Australia Pty LtdPacketeerRackspace

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