Free network software might radically change how routing works

Startup 128 Technology says it can create secure paths across the Internet

Radical new ideas are hitting network technology these days.

On Tuesday, one new startup promised to make switches fully programmable. Another, routing software company 128 Technology, said it would fix the Internet.

What 128 is proposing is a fundamentally different approach to routing, one that the company says will make networking simpler and more secure.

The Internet was designed just to send packets from a source to a destination, but it’s evolved into a platform for delivering content and services among large, private networks. These complex tasks call for capabilities beyond basic routing, like security and knowing about the state of a session, said Andy Ory, 128’s CEO. He was the founder of Acme Packet, a session border controller company Oracle acquired in 2013. His new company is named after Route 128, the famed Massachusetts tech corridor where its headquarters is located.

Conventional routers aren’t really equipped for those tasks, he said. So network engineers have added load balancers, firewalls, tunnels, MPLS (multiprotocol label switching), deep packet inspection and other components to augment routers. The complexity is starting to catch up with us, Ory said. “It worked for 20 years. But we’ve reached a point where it just doesn’t work anymore.”

As the Internet gets fragmented among private networks, it’s getting harder for companies to deliver applications and services to their customers, he said.

The solution, according to 128, is deterministic routing that can select, manage and enforce a path across the Internet. This would ensure traffic moves safely and with the right level of service between, say, a corporate LAN and Microsoft’s Office 365 cloud. That could help solve a lot of the problems network users face, including things like espionage and identity theft, Ory said.

“The network itself does not participate in security,” he said. “A session-aware routed network could participate in security.”

Rather than try to replace all the routers on the Internet, 128 will introduce Linux-based routing software that can run on any server. These virtual routers will be able to create deterministic paths between them while coexisting with conventional routers.

It would take a broad ecosystem to roll out a change as big as this across the Internet, so 128 plans to submit its technology to standards bodies. But there are ways to use it that don’t require the whole Internet to play along: For example, a carrier could use the routers within its own network, or an enterprise could implement them within a data center.

The company’s business model will be as unconventional as its approach to routing: It won’t sell hardware and its software will be free. To make money, 128 will sell licenses to use the software based on the amount of data the customer sends through the virtual routers.

The software is commercially available now and in trials with customers. The company expects it to be processing live traffic later this year.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Stephen Lawson

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles


GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy


First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni


For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell


The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi


The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott


My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?