Sunder Networks Leads Path To Democratize Network App Development

Sunder Networks Co-Founders Mark Cannon, left, and Rich Renner.

Before Mark Cannon was the CEO and Co-Founder of Raleigh-based Sunder Networks, he experienced a problem that his startup seeks to address up close and personal. 

Working at Cisco Systems for about 10 years, Cannon met his Co-Founder Rich Renner and they learned what it takes to fully integrate, test and validate software on a particular hardware.

Any time one of their clients had to fix a bug or add a new feature, Cannon felt the amount of time it took to get it developed and deployed was far too long, becoming detrimental to the customer experience and business in general.

“One of the things that always kind of stuck with us from our time at Cisco is the inefficiency and the amount of work and effort it takes to integrate network software and network hardware,” Cannon said.

With big advancements in programmable hardware, Cannon and Renner incorporated Sunder Networks in January 2020 and are at the edge of building the middleware and tooling to allow companies to develop and deploy network functions or apps much more quickly.

“Historically, this has been a monolithic system so it comes prepackaged—this software only runs on this hardware,” Cannon said. “The testing and validation, the integration involved in getting that one custom or unique system put together is just massive.”

Sunder Networks plans to present at CED’s virtual Venture Connect (March 23-25), and expect to hear plenty about how the startup plans to capitalize on where technology is going.

“The trend that’s happening right now is kind of this disaggregation of network hardware and network software,” Cannon said, “and we’re leaning into that new paradigm.”

The middleware platform sits in between the hardware and network software, allowing network software or apps to be built and deployed much quicker and on different sets of hardware or platforms, Cannon said. The bring-your-own-hardware setup is a big differentiator for the bootstrapped Sunder Networks, which will offer a subscription software licensing model.

Sunder Networks’ offerings are targeting large data-center companies that require infrastructure and private clouds initially.

In the process of proving their model, Sunder Networks is doing a project with a senior design class at NC State, where students with little experience are able to develop network apps with Sunder Networks’ middleware. 

“We want to democratize the way in which network functions or network apps are developed,” Cannon said.

The long-term vision for Sunder Networks looks like this: in the same way phones have an app store for apps built on that network’s infrastructure, Sunder Networks will enable an app ecosystem where anyone can build a network app with their middleware and Application Programming Interface (API) platforms, something not even remotely possible now, Cannon said.

This will unlock innovation as smart people can just go and build apps that solve problems without all the current hassle of integrating with different, specific network hardware.

“The big thing that we believe will happen is, it’ll really unleash a wave of innovation,” Cannon said.

About Suzanne Blake 153 Articles
Suzanne profiles startups and innovation for GrepBeat. She is also a junior studying journalism and political science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Reach Suzanne at suzanne@grepbeat.com.