Former Cisco executives ready to take on AWS with startup Pensando

Pensando came out of stealth mode with a Series C round of funding that brings its total capital raised to $278 million. (Pixabay)

After two years of building anticipation, Pensando, a company formed by prominent former Cisco executives, has come out of stealth mode.

Pensando made a splash on Wednesday when it announced a $145 million Series C round of funding led by Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Lightspeed Venture Partners.  Pensando has raised a total of $278 million since its founding two years ago. Pensando will use the new funding to accelerate its engineering, operations and go-to-market activities.

Pensando is buzzworthy on several fronts. The company is led by Mario Mazzola, Prem Jain, Luca Cafiero and Soni Jiandani, who were collectively known as "MPLS" (the letters of their first names) during their time at Cisco. The four came over to Cisco in 1993 after Cisco bought Ethernet switching company Crescendo Communications.

The foursome went on to form startups buoyed by investments from Cisco as part of Cisco's "spin-in" acquisition strategy. In 2013, MPLS sold Insieme Networks to Cisco for $863 million.

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During their Cisco tenure, the MPLS team worked under then Chairman and CEO John Chambers, who stepped down from those roles in 2015.

After Pensando was formed, Chambers became an investor and currently is chairman of the company's board. In addition to the latest funding round, Pensando also announced on Wednesday that Mark Potter, chief technology officer of Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), and Barry Eggers, a partner of Lightspeed Venture Partners, joined its board of directors.

"In less than three years we've assembled a best in class engineering team that are experts in building systems for the cloud, compute, networking, storage and security markets" said CEO Jain, in a statement. "As a customer and partner first company we are focused on accelerating all aspects of our business as we go to market with a great ecosystem and a breakthrough platform."

While Pensando has an impressive pedigree, its technology is also noteworthy. Pensando unveiled its flagship software-defined edge services platform on Wednesday. The Pensando platform delivers highly programmable software-defined cloud, compute, networking, storage, and security services wherever data is located. 

Pensando has developed a data center chip optimized to handle computing tasks related to network management, security and data storage. The chip is part of accelerator cards that can be plugged into a server to offload tasks from the machine’s main processor. The result is a 20% to 40% reduction in central processing unit utilization, according to Pensando, which leads to processing cycle efficiency gains.

Pensando claims its platform agnostic technology delivers five to nine times better performance than Amazon’s Nitro, which is the current market leader. Pensando has two accelerator cards, the Naples 100 and Naples 25, and a system called "Venice" that allows administrators to centrally manage their deployments. 

Fortune 500 companies that have deployed Pensando include Goldman Sachs, which is in an investor, HPE, NetApp and Equinix.

"Goldman Sachs is significantly simplifying our data center architecture and reducing expenses with Pensando," said Goldman Sachs' Joshua Matheus, managing director, in a statement. "Pensando allows us to secure our east-west data center traffic while ensuring compliance, and at the same time, with improved telemetry, we reduce our time-to-problem resolution from hours to minutes."