Juniper founder steps away to run new startup Fungible: What is Fungible?

Feb 10, 2017 10:45:30 AM

What is Fungible, Inc., the new startup created by Juniper Networks’ founder Pradeep Sindhu, working on?

Juniper announced this week that Sindhu, its founder and CTO, will be taking a reduced, advisory role at the company and surrender his seat on the board of directors so he can devote more time to his Fungible, a company he co-founded in 2015 and for which he serves as CEO.  Around the same time that Juniper announced Sindhu’s decision to focus his time on his new startup, Fungible announced a $32.5 million Series A financing round. In that announcement, Fungible said it would develop a “full-stack solution for cloud data centers.”

Fungible is a still in stealth mode, so details on what it is developing are scarce. Bertrand Serlet, a former Apple executive who led development of Mac OS X Tiger, Leopard and Snow Leopard, is a co-founder, so one can expect that Fungible will be very software-driven.

The company’s website has very little information other than the following mission statement: “Revolutionize the economics, security, and reliability of data centers.” The most detailed information on Fungible’s website is its job board, where it has listed several hardware and software engineering positions. Nearly all the job listings start with this statement: “Central to our mission is a highly programmable chip.”

The hardware engineering listings point to the development of a programmable system on a chip (SoC), with “workload specific hardware accelerators.” It appears that Fungible is building some kind of hardware appliance or series of appliances with programmable, multi-function silicon inside. Fungible is also looking for a “Linux Guru,” who will write the software that runs the chip and a “Linux Driver Engineer” who will create drivers and libraries that communicate with the chip. A hypervisor engineer is also going to be creating software that runs this SoC, which suggests that the chip will run an embedded software system where individual functions can run as virtual machines on a Linux-based software stack.

But what will these appliances do? The company is hiring several software engineers, including a packet forwarding engineer, who will write software that communicates with the chip. Fungible is looking for an engineer who is familiar with BGP and OSPF routing and virtual switching. Keywords at the bottom of this job listing include OpenStack, Network Functions Virtualization, overlay, tunneling, VXLAN, and VMware.

The company is also hiring a couple of storage software engineers. These job listings start with the sentence “Software for creating reliable, high performance storage infrastructure in a large-scale data center environment is central to our mission.”

So Fungible is building a highly programmable SoC, storage infrastructure software and some kind of data center scale networking stack that possibly leverages BGP, OSPF and overlay technologies like VXLAN. It’s really hard to say what all this adds up to, but my gut tells me its some kind of next-generation converged infrastructure solution that uses commodity hardware for storage and compute while leveraging custom advanced silicon to apply services like routing and security and to make decisions on orchestration and workload placement. Of course, this is only based upon job listings. The people already working for Fungible might have skillets and project foci that completely upend my theory.

Shamus McGillicuddy

Written by Shamus McGillicuddy

Shamus is the vice president of research for EMA's network management practice. He has more than twelve years of experience in the IT industry as an analyst and journalist. Prior to joining EMA, Shamus was the news director for TechTarget's networking publications. He led the news team's coverage of all networking topics, from the infrastructure layer to the management layer. He has published hundreds of articles about network technology, and he was a founding editor of TechTarget's website, a leading resource for technical information and news on the software-defined networking industry.

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