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Avalanche NEXT Accurately Tests Performance, Scalability and Security

Interview with Ankur Chadda, Director of Security and Application Testing Solutions at Spirent

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Please tell us, what is Spirent Communications all about?

Ankur Chadda: Spirent Communications is a global leader in test & measurement offers an extensive portfolio of solutions to test data centers, cloud computing environments, high speed Ethernet networks and services, 3G/4G wireless networks and devices, network security, and global navigation satellite systems.

What's new?

Chadda: We just launched Avalanche NEXT; a solution that accurately tests the performance, scalability and security of today's application-aware network infrastructures, by generating authentic traffic and attacks. It combines Spirent Avalanche's performance testing with Spirent Studio's threats and application emulation capabilities. It produces traffic with authentic payloads based on actual usage for realistic security, load and functional testing.

The biggest challenge industrywide is pushing either the product or solution to the end of its lifecycle with testing. It is similar to an insurance policy where you don't notice it until things start going bad. The value of our testing is not the typical ROI where you can say "buy this and you will get this." It's more about protection and understanding that spending this money on testing means avoiding outages and the impact of negative brand recognition.

Who is your target audience?

Chadda: Our target audience is enterprises of large to medium size as well as service providers and security equipment manufacturers. We reach them through multiple channels including online media, blogs, tradeshows, social networks, forums and discussion groups and our own direct sales force channel.

I'd be curious to hear any general thoughts you have on market trends...

Chadda: The "Internet of things" is an impactful trend that means there are new classes of devices that are connecting to the internet. There are things such as thermostats and refrigerators or industrial control systems which were not initially developed to be online that are now boasting their online connectivity. The security aspect of this trend remains to be seen, as it is unknown how robust and resilient they are to attacks.

In the past, if you had an online attack it would only disrupt your day-to-day activities when the server went down. With all of these systems attached to the internet, you have the risk of actual physical real-world damage resulting from online-based attacks. Consider a water delivery system that can be controlled via an internet-based system. Now there are physical risks such as possibly flooding an entire town. The risks are no longer just virtual, so companies need to test properly in order to ensure security and reduce risk.

What is the viral aspect of your product?

Chadda: With Avalanche NEXT, we are making security testing accessible to non-security experts. It offers an intuitive interface that is unparalleled and is driving adoption among several different industries. It's easy to send attacks and application traffic to perform fast security testing that best mimics real-world conditions. Another viral aspect of the product is the more than 3,500 applications it supports for testing, a number that is well beyond any competitive offerings. Larger companies need to manage thousands of applications and updates that are running through potentially millions of devices. Avalanche NEXT allows them to duplicate and test such a high amount of network stress.

What's the business model?

Chadda: We make hardware-based equipment and build software that leverages it. This is sold as a complete solution that we market to enterprises and equipment manufacturers.

Who are your competitors?

Chadda: Ixia is our main competitor for Avalanche NEXT.

How do you differentiate from your competitors?

Chadda: Avalanche NEXT offers the highest number of applications (more than 3,500) which can be generated for customer testing. This allows users to be able to pick out nuanced traffic with our more in-depth realism. For example, you want to make sure you can test the various things done on Facebook or Twitter from the organization, whether it's marketing campaigns or something with entertainment value.

We also feature TestCloud which has the latest database of apps, malware and attacks. It syncs up with Avalanche NEXT online so clients always have the latest testing scenarios, they do not need to wait for weeks for manual updates.

How does your technology differentiate from the competition and can you elaborate on the different technology deployed?

Chadda: Avalanche NEXT can perform higher-performance application, security, and fuzzing testing all in one solution, a significant competitive differentiator. It offers highly intelligent fuzzing where customers can target their solution to ensure it is resilient and robust against potential mutations. If for example you are doing HTTP-based fuzzing test, Avalanche NEXT will create hundreds of thousands of protocol mutations to show you if the solution falls flat or crashes.

What business or technology could yours disrupt?

Chadda: Spirent's testing includes methodologies which are built into the test cases, meaning companies no longer have to build them from scratch. This allows our clients to conduct testing without having in-depth knowledge on testing methodologies. They can have robust security testing performed by lower-level staff, allowing the more experienced IT staff to focus on issue resolution or other concerns.

Please tell us the story of the company's beginnings?

Chadda: Jack Bowthorpe was the founder of the Group of Companies now known as Spirent Communications. Mr. Bowthorpe's background was in the supply of "everything electrical," and in 1936, with limited financial resources, Goodliffe Electric Supplies Ltd was formed. The Company was based in London as a designer and supplier of overhead transmission line fittings. The strategy of the Company was to spot a niche in the electrical and electronics market and fill it; this was a strategy that continued into the 1990's.

By the mid-1990's Bowthorpe was a diverse Group of niche companies supplying components and accessories to high-tech organizations in defense, aerospace and, telecommunications, with a broad range of industrial applications. In 1997 the Group announced a change in its strategic direction and that it would focus its investments on markets with high growth potential and divest its non-core businesses.

The Company changed its name to Spirent plc on 12 May, 2000 and declared that the Group strategy would be to focus on high growth, high margin, high technology activities and build a world-leading communications business. The Company changed its name to Spirent Communications plc on 8 May 2006. In November 2012 Spirent sold the last of its non-core businesses, Systems for $64 million. Following this disposal Spirent's activities are fully focused on the communications test and measurement market.

Where to buy your product?

Chadda: We have a distribution model with our own sales teams located in the majority of regions throughout the globe. In some regions we have distributor networks. To buy the product, companies should contact their local sales team via Spirent.com.

What's next on your product roadmap?

Chadda: We already have virtual solutions for existing solutions. This technology will be used to support Avalanche NEXT on virtual infrastructure. Advanced virtual testing is a focus of our product roadmap alongwith producing solutions with even more capabilities at higher speeds and testing of more ports.

Are you targeting a first VC round? If yes when and what will you use the funds for?

How much money is being sought?

Chadda: We are currently not seeking VC funding. Spirent Communications is an established company and is publicly traded company on the London Stock Exchange.

What else would you like to add?

Chadda: When the internet started it was not made for what it is used for today. According to many experts we are still in the honeymoon phase and might not realize what kind of impact the "Internet of things" will have on security and vulnerability. The need for security and security testing will only continue to grow and be critical for any business to thrive.

Spirent Communications plc. (LSE: SPT), a global leader in test & measurement offers an extensive portfolio of solutions to test data centers, cloud computing environments, high speed Ethernet networks and services, 3G/4G wireless networks and devices, network security, and global navigation satellite systems.

More Stories By Xenia von Wedel

Xenia von Wedel, Tech blogger and VP of Socialradius/San Francisco-San Jose. She mainly writes about B2B solutions, social media and open source software. SocialRadius is a full-service social media marketing agency, serving clients in a variety of industries worldwide. The agency is focused on thought leadership content creation and syndication, social media outreach and strategy.