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NetScaler Founder Michel Susai's NeoAccel
Robin Joseph Mathews
Thursday, March 4, 2010
For the man who invented the fundamental Internet acceleration technology that more than 75 percent of users traverse each day, competing and winning against the Silicon Valley’s giants is a way of life.

Michel Susai, the founder and former Chairman and CEO of NetScaler, has taken a bold new step. With his new company NeoAccel, he’s once again challenging the giants such as Juniper Networks and F5 Networks. He wants his company, NeoAccel to be “the next Check Point.”

Susai has focused NeoAccel on the rapidly emerging market for SSL VPNs - network systems that enable a browser-equipped PC to securely access enterprise applications. With a high-performance system architecture under the hood, NeoAccel’s SSL VPN-Plus promises to be the first SSL VPN to reliably deliver the site-to-site access functionality of conventional IPSec VPNs.

Traditional SSL VPN secure access products have been known to drop sessions and cause an inconsistent user experience. NeoAccel’s solution promises to eliminate the inconsistent user experience associated with other vendors’ SSL VPNs. The technology establishes a single TCP connection from a client to a gateway, and it works to eliminate the TCP-over-TCP meltdown and context-switching problems that historically hinder performance and scalability of convention SSL VPNs.

“Our technology enables users to almost completely eliminate the adverse impact of packet loss of any kind,” says Susai. He adds, “Our SSL VPN Plus is also optimized for wireless environments.”

Founded in March 2003, NeoAccel is funded by Barings (former venture arm of ING), NTT Communications and technology angel investors such as Prabhu Goel, Sabeer Bhatia and others including Susai’s NextStar Venture.

“Although a relatively late entry, NeoAccel is seeking to make up time by capitalizing on a significant fundamental technology flaw with existing SSL VPN products,” said Michael Suby, Senior Research Analyst for Stratecast Partners, a Division of Frost & Sullivan. “That technology flaw is apparent in SSL VPN full access methods, resulting in what is known as TCP-over-TCP meltdown in transport networks where congestion is unchecked such as wireless LANs or where packet loss is common across the Internet.

NeoAccel’s remedy to these problems is with two NeoAccel-designed technologies that eliminate TCP-over-TCP meltdown and eliminate 70 percent of context switching overhead.”

NeoAccel’s technology can find its play in applications such as VoIP calls and video conferencing. Until now, vendors and users of VoIP and video conferencing applications have largely avoided first- and second-generation SSL VPNs because they inject so much latency, that call and video quality degrades to unacceptable levels. NeoAccel’s solution provides injected latency of just 10 milliseconds (ms) for VoIP calls and video conferencing sessions, eliminating the performance problems that have until now made SSL VPNs unacceptable for real-time applications such as VoIP and video conferencing between multiple corporations.

With the vision to “Secure Everything” through secure access from anywhere to anything, NeoAccel is delivering a breakthrough in simplified, full-access SSL VPN technology. NeoAccel’s SSL VPN-Plus enables more businesses to implement highly secure, scalable access with the native network performance of IPSec VPNs. Powered by the company’s patent-pending Intelligent Connection Acceleration Architecture (ICAA) technology, NeoAccel’s SSL VPN-Plus software platform overcomes the limitations that compel network managers and users to resort to cumbersome or insecure workarounds when faced with using conventional performance-limited Web security mechanisms.

Unlike conventional SSL VPNs, NeoAccel’s SSL VPN-Plus can be deployed to provide high-performance access to all IP-based applications, including Citrix, database, legacy and other non-Webified enterprise applications. Because of its patent-pending advantage, NeoAccel becomes the first SSL VPN supplier to provide a viable replacement to IPSec VPNs in a market that industry analyst Yankee Group forecasts to grow by a factor of 9x over the next four years.

“Until now, SSL VPN vendors, remote access solution providers, and enterprise end users have been forced to live with the performance problems inherent in first- and second-generation SSL VPNs,” said Susai “NeoAccel understands the fundamental technology flaw in conventional SSL VPNs. Our approach to providing a network security solution with ASIC-class performance provides the cure.

Now, with the help of the financial backing from a cadre of leading investors combined with the strength and innovation of our world-class development team in India, the time is right to show the world that NeoAccel offers a full-function alternative to conventional IPSec VPNs.”

NeoAccel’s solution is particularly well suited for high-demand enterprise deployments that are known to choke the performance of conventional SSL VPNs due to what is known as TCP-over-TCP meltdown. Problematic environments for conventional SSL VPNs include wireless LANs and secure access networks that are prone to peak-period congestion. Customer tests of NeoAccel’s SSL VPN-Plus show that NeoAccel achieves from 4x to 30x better performance than conventional SSL VPNs.

Is NeoAccel the wave of the future? Timing is everything, and only time will tell. Susai affirms, “NeoAccel’s SSL VPN-Plus will be a next-generation breakthrough that will overcome the performance limitations of conventional SSL VPNs.” He adds, “I will continue to be the CEO when the company holds its victory celebration.” That’s indeed sign of confidence of an entrepreneur who is at the forefront of “the next big thing.”

The Early Days
– Founding NetScaler, Inc.

For the fact that high-traffic Websites such as Google, MSN and Ticketmaster can be counted on to deliver their content to your PC in the blink of an eye, you can thank Michel Susai. But it wasn’t always that way. In the early days of the Web, Websites suffered from troublesome latency and often failed under loads due to the network overhead created when thousands of PCs connect with back-end Web servers. Users complained about the poor quality of their online experience. And, delivering content from high-traffic Websites consumed excessive amounts of bandwidth and server capacity.

In 1997, where others saw an Internet built on the TCP/IP network protocols that were never designed to deliver content to millions of far-flung PCs, Susai saw opportunity. So, he founded NetScaler, which is today part of high-flying Citrix Systems (Citrix acquired NetScaler in 2005 for $325 million), to overcome this performance-draining overhead. And overcome it he did, inventing “Request Switching” – the fundamental Internet acceleration technology that up to 75 percent of Internet users go through each day to visit the world’s highest-traffic websites.

Susai and NetScaler are a Silicon Valley success story. But why is the Silicon Valley invariably the center of innovation, where original ideas like “Request Switching” are generated - ideas that radically and irrevocably change the way things get done? In industries such as chemicals or automotive, advanced processes are the primary sources of innovation. In the Silicon Valley, it’s people and ideas; uncompromising entrepreneurs and inspired inventors who fuel innovation. And Michel Susai is one of the breed of Silicon Valley innovators that possess a rare combination of both technical expertise and business acumen.

“In order to build a cutting-edge technology company, it takes a cutting-edge background,” explains Susai. “With NetScaler, which is now the de facto standard for accelerating Internet applications, it did not happen by fluke; it was the result of a systematic approach combined with long-term, dedicated work.”

In 1994, when Susai was working at Unisys in downtown San Jose, one of his projects was to implement distributed TCP/IP for Unisys’s massively parallel processor system known as OPUS (Open Parallel Unisys Server). OPUS was a visionary product that resulted in supercomputing capabilities for AT&T’s next-generation Unix System. The innovation of OPUS was that a UNIX operating system would run on any computer no matter what was under the hood - a single central microprocessor, a symmetric multiprocessor consisting of multiple CPUs, or a massively parallel super computer with hundreds of microprocessors.

OPUS was a highly ambitious project based on a tight partnership between Unisys, AT&T’s Bell Labs, Intel’s Supercomputer Division and Chorus Systems of France. Susai’s job was to implement distributed TCP/IP across multiple massively parallel nodes and load balance the incoming traffic from a few interfaces across hundreds of processing nodes.

While working on this TCP/IP load balancing architecture, Susai became deeply involved with the mainstream emergence of the Internet and worked long and hard with Unisys senior management to form Internet Architecture.

Meanwhile, he wrote an internal paper for Unisys technology conference titled “Policy-based Routing” which explained how to separate the load balancing element for TCP traffic out of the tightly coupled massively parallel operating system (what’s known as the Single System Image) and implement the load balancing component in a dedicated appliance called “Internet Traffic/load Manger”.

At Unisys, Susai worked hard to champion the project to deliver the load balancing appliance. However, Unisys management considered routing to be outside Unisys’s business interests, and determined not to infringe on the competition’s territory.

Susai then joined Sun Microsystems to lead the development of their Internet load balancing technology. He directed the “Kepler” project to produce a massive-scale load balancing and traffic management system, including Internet clustering and management for dynamically scalable servers. Susai believed that Sun could have dominated the entire market for router to server networking devices but was frustrated with a lack of support. He soon left Sun, but not without first meeting a brilliant distinguished engineer, Randy Retburg, who understood that any computer could be used as a networking appliance if the system software is written efficiently. This could potentially eliminate the need for a dedicated network processor or special-purpose hardware to process network traffic. The insight that “system software rules” became one of Susai’s driving philosophies, fueling his belief that standard hardware architectures can outperform far more expensive, special-purpose hardware.

After Sun, Susai founded NetScaler. At NetScaler, as its Founder, Chairman and CEO raised $65 million in four rounds of funding, the first two rounds from leading angel investors including Ajay Shah and subsequent investments from Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse First Boston, Bay Partners, Gabriel Venture Partners and others, while also recruiting some of the best minds in the valley and abroad. Susai and his team perfected Request Switching. The patent filing describes Request Switching as a system, method, and computer program product for network client-server multiplexing. The patent states, “In a preferred embodiment, the present invention is implemented within an interface unit connecting a plurality of servers to the Internet, which is in turn connected to a plurality of clients.” As it turned out, the “plurality of servers” is today represented by Websites such as Google and MSN, and the “plurality of clients” has become the millions of Internet users who flock to these sites each day. Today, Request Switching is the fundamental acceleration technology used by the majority of the world’s Internet traffic.

“When I started NetScaler, I was 31 years old, and my friends circle consisted of enthusiastic, if a bit inexperienced, youngsters,” said Susai. “We had little idea how to create a startup. I have to credit the book High Tech Startup, by John L. Nesheim, which I read word-for-word. Fortunately, we were blessed with access to ample money from VCs and trusted angel investors. My background in massively parallel system software and my last job at Sun brought lots of credibility. With this support, my team’s technical expertise, and a lot of long, hard work, NetScaler and Request Switching became very successful.”

“There are investors with brilliant minds and you need to find them and work with them,” advised Susai. “On leadership and the CEO’s role, my suggestion to entrepreneurs is that if you know what you are doing and if you believe in your company’s vision, no one can do your job better than you. Do not give up – if you give up, your company will fail or it will take double the time to succeed.”
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