Startup automates router configurations

Colorado Springs, Colorado-based startup Intelliden on Friday came out of its two-year self-imposed quiet period to introduce its router and switch configuration software.

The company has developed an element management software suite that enables enterprises and service providers to automate the configuration of routers and LAN switches based on sets of user-defined parameters and rules.

"Having highly paid engineers manually configuring one router at a time is both costly and time-consuming," said Dale Hecht, president and CEO of Intelliden. "We've spent the last two years solving that problem."

Hecht explains that the problem is devices often have multiple versions of operating systems and different features. This means that configuring one router may require using one certain syntax, while others may require something entirely different. Plus, configuring one router often means reconfiguring others. Furthermore, most enterprises have a mixed environment, where they have routers and switches from multiple vendors, including those made by Juniper Networks Inc. and Cisco Systems Inc., the two companies Intelliden is targeting.

"Cisco and Juniper make up 91 percent of the router market and 75 percent of the LAN switch market," Hecht said. "As a startup, we must stay focused on the largest opportunities."

Dubbed the Intelliden R-series, the software suite presents a Web-based graphical user interface and uses XML to move stored configurations in and out of a directory. Replacing the green-screen command-line interface approach used today to configure most routers, Intelliden aims to lower the cost of managing a network and reducing the chance of human-entry errors via their workflow.

Intelliden worked closely with Juniper to ensure that the R-series suite works with Juniper's operating system, dubbed Junos. The two companies combined Intelliden's GUI with Junos.

"Intelliden is leveraging our XML API to retrieve information from our routers and are incorporating this information into their offering," said Hema Ganapathy, product marketing manager of the IP OSS Alliance Program at Juniper Networks. Ganapathy adds that all of Juniper's routers ship with the same operating system image, thus making configuration simpler via the command-line interface.

Cisco also offers a variety of tools to configure its routers; yet, like Juniper and others, its tools do not permit configuration of other vendor's equipment. Cisco also has created an XML interface to permit information to be extracted from its routers.

However, Intelliden believes doing management of multiple devices simultaneously and in accordance with business rules is really what customers want.

"Vendors do have some tools, but none with true workflow capabilities," Hecht added. He explained that with Intelliden R-Series software enterprises can create their own business rules. Using a custom-built workflow management engine, the software can determine the order in which configuration tasks are done, define who can implement what task, and define an approval process. The software also allows management of all the device's functionality prior to and after a configuration is made.

In addition, the R-series allows customers to validate a device's configuration by cross-checking it with the directory. Hecht explained that this feature will help ensure a network is properly configured based on business rules and will prevent a manually configured router from being automatically overridden without approval.

One incidence of the software allows an enterprise or carrier to access, configure, and control up to 5,000 devices simultaneously from a unified control pane and make up to 150 changes per hour per device.

The Intelliden R30 product comes with an API to allow integration with various operations support systems that carriers use to create, deploy, and manage packet-based services.

The Intelliden R10 is essentially the same as the R30, but minus the API. Both products are now in beta testing at seven locations, including WorldCom, the company at which many of Intelliden's founders were once employed.

The products will be generally available on March 8 and will be priced on a per-device basis. The company declined to disclose exact figures.

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