Tech Startup: Tackling the Last Frontier
Stateless takes over network functions and allows for data-intensive applications to run smoothly
INITIAL LIGHT BULB
Murad Kablan met Eric Keller at the University of Colorado-Boulder. Kablan was working on a Ph.D. and Keller was his adviser. Kablan’s thesis was focused on a new paradigm for network functions like firewalls and load balancers.
At CU, Kablan and Keller worked with IBM on cloud infrastructure research. “That’s where we became exposed to the problems in the industry,” says Kablan, who began to develop a platform to decouple security and other functions from the network state and move them to a high-performance data store — thus the moniker, Stateless. “It became my thesis. I started the company while I was a student.”
Many observers were dubious that a virtual platform could handle network functions. “We proved them wrong and filed the patent for it,” he says. “Now we’ve decided to commercialize it.”
It helps fill a growing market void. “There’s a fundamental shift,” Kablan says. “There’s been a lot of innovation with storage (in the cloud). The last frontier is the networking piece.”
In spring 2017, Stateless graduated from TechStars Boulder a month before Kablan successfully defended his thesis. By fall, the company landed a $1.4 million seed investment. The company has 12 employees; Kablan is CEO and Keller is CTO.
IN A NUTSHELL
The impetus for Stateless’ platform stems from problems with the “shift of workload from the enterprise to the public cloud,” Kablan says. Data centers “came under great pressure to handle this increased workload.”
The traditional approach has been to scale with more routers. “We’ve got to break the box mentality,” Kablan says. “That was OK 15 years ago, but now we see a demand for more flexible and more scalable networks.”
Stateless’ solution takes over numerous network functions and allows for data-intensive applications to run more smoothly. “Existing solutions do not do so good for that,” Kablan says. “That’s where our platform comes into play for the MSP (managed service provider).”
Stateless will test its solution with proof-of-concept deployments at data centers. “We’ve got to show the value to those data center operators,” Kablan says. “That’s the mission of 2019.”
Founded in 1994, Boulder-based Earthnet is one such data center. CEO Bahman Saless says Earthnet started offering cloud service to stay competitive with bigger companies. In that respect, Stateless is an ideal partner. “It’s a win/win for both of us,” Saless says.
He sees a bright future for Stateless. “I think it has huge potential,” he says. “A data center buys a whole bunch of routers and a whole bunch of switches and a whole bunch of firewalls. Their product puts all those things in just one box. I jokingly call it a ‘data center in a box.’”
Stateless is targeting data centers and managed service providers (MSPs). According to IHS, the network functions virtualization (NFV) market, which includes NFV hardware, software and services, will be worth $15.5 billion worldwide by 2020.
After closing a $1.4 million seed round led by Speedinvest in November 2017, Stateless is looking to raise more capital in 2019. “We started fundraising for a Series A,” Kablan says. He expects the company to have 30 to 40 employees in 2020.