Centri's optimization, policy control technology in early operator trials

Centri Technology, which rolled out its mobile network management and optimization platform in February, is working with two mobile operators--one each in North America and in Europe--on early trials of its technology, according to a top company executive.

Vaughan Emery

Vaughan Emery

Vaughan Emery, Centri's founder and CEO, told FierceBroadbandWireless that the Seattle-based company has no commercial network contracts to announce yet for its Connected Experience Platform (CXP). He said, however, that the company is already working with phone and access point manufacturers to embed pieces of its technology in those platforms.

The startup is gaining traction, having completed a Series B round of funding in November 2012, which brought it $4.5 million in venture capital from investors led by the Matthew Pritzker Company, a private investment firm in Chicago.  Centri was founded in 2009 with a technology transfer from the University of Mississippi, which is still an equity holder in the company. Its Series A financing of $1.5 million was raised in 2011 through an angel group located in Seattle.

Centri's CXP is aimed at enabling operators to optimize and secure their data network, apply parental and corporate policies as well as monetize new premium services. "There's finite capacity and exponential growth. Efficiently managing network resources is really our objective, and we do that at a granular level," said Emery.

Centri's primary selling point is that its client-server architecture integrates network management and optimization functions from an end-to-end perspective.

According to a forthcoming white paper commissioned by Centri and written by regular FierceWireless contributor Mark Lowenstein, products such as bandwidth management, encryption and policy control have historically been provided to operators by separate vendors and maintained in operational silos. "The disadvantage of this approach to network management is that these are disparate products, each addressing a particular part of the problem," wrote Lowenstein.

Centri's end-to-end solution includes software that goes into the endpoint, whether that is a connected home, an M2M device, a tablet or smartphone. "That allows us to know the individual device, not just based on IP address or a MAC address," said Emery, adding that he believes traffic shaping needs to be done at the endpoint rather that at the network edge or inside the radio access network.

By linking to the back-office billing functions, Centri can tell what plan a  particular device is on and from there apply certain optimizations, policies and traffic shaping to the data traffic. Centri can run its servers in the operator's data center or hosted in a cloud offering as well.

Centri's technology can capture data across heterogeneous networks, or HetNets, which can include both cellular and Wi-Fi components. The vendor uses a technique called reverse proxy to retain visibility of data sent and received from a device, whether it's on an end user's home carrier's cellular network, a visited network or a Wi-Fi network. This type of capability could become key to intelligent Wi-Fi offloading from home or visited cellular networks.

Centri's platform includes patented mobile optimization capabilities based on bi-level caching. The technology analyzes data streams and looks for repeated data patterns, which are actually cached on the send and receive side. "View this as a dynamic cache that's being built using data that [is] sent and received from both endpoints," said Emery.

That caching allows Centri to reduce the amount of data that is pushed across the network because the data is already in a cached state on both the send and receive devices. According to Emery, this improves network capacity and also results in faster response times because the data is already at the send and receive sites.

Emery also touted Centri's Smart VPN product, which uses public stream cipher encryption to simultaneously encrypt data and compress it, helping save device battery life, which can be slashed in half by traditional VPN approaches.

The policy control and network optimization space is heating up, as evidenced by Oracle's recent agreement to acquire Tekelec and Cisco's acquisition of Broadhop last December. Other competitors in this arena include Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE:ALU), Amdocs, Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC), Huawei, Juniper Networks, Nokia Siemens Networks, Openet and ZTE. Another startup, Vasona Networks, is using traffic-shaping techniques to help operators optimize networks by the cell.

Related articles:
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Vasona says edge application controller creates a new category
Startup Vasona touts cell-level traffic shaping
Cisco makes policy management play with BroadHop acquisition
Citrix snaps up mobile optimization firm Bytemobile