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Cisco snarfs ClearAccess for remote broadband apps

Making service provider play

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Networking giant Cisco Systems has added another arrow to its quiver and is aiming at the service provider market with the acquisition of ClearAccess, a maker of what is called TR-069 software.

ClearAccess makes a platform called ClearVision, which is a suite of remote troubleshooting applications that adhere to the Broadband Forum's Technical Report 069 standard. This standard, which is not the name of the beloved Radio Shack computer than many of us cut our hacking teeth on, is an application layer protocol that specifies how session configuration servers and autoconfiguration servers at a service provider can reach out over a broadband network to configure PCs, smartphones, and tablets.

In particular it allows the help desk at a service provider to troubleshoot broadband, firewall, and Wi-Fi issues on the home network. ClearVision has an administrator portal for service providers to configure services for customers and a subscriber portal for allowing customers to access and reconfigure those services.

The product is used by service providers rolling out IPTV services, and is said to offer "fewer truck rolls" and "shorter support calls" as it helps service providers automatically deal with many issues those pesky consumers have as they struggle with their digital connected home, as Intel likes to call it.

The ClearVision stack includes apps for managing WiFi links, the firewalls inside of broadband gateways, remote access to devices located in the home, time blocking and content filtering, and a bandwidth optimizer to squeeze out every megabit per second of performance from a coax or fiber link.

ClearAccess was founded in October 2005 by Ken Hood, currently VP of marketing, and Joel Pennington, currently managing director of EMEA operations. It's based in Vancouver, Washington (not British Columbia), just north of the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon.

Both Hood and Pennington had extensive experience in the telco, service provider, and networking markets, and figured that the proliferation of devices linked to home networks was going to be a big tech support headache for service providers, who would get blamed even if the problem was not the broadband link. ClearVision aims to automate configuration and troubleshooting for these myriad devices.

Not much is known about ClearAccess, but in this profile from three years ago, the company had 50 customers, had 34 employees, and said it was on track to get $50m in sales by 2012. The ClearVision service, which is a SaaS app not sold under a perpetual license, costs service providers under $1 per month per gateway.

Cisco's Linksys unit was already certifying the ClearVision software to be used in conjunction with its wares, and rival Netgear's CG3000 family of cable gateways also work with the product. The link with Linksys is one of the reasons why Cisco snapped up ClearAccess. The other was to take it to a much wider base of service providers and therefore ramp up its revenues.

Cisco says it will merge the ClearVision wares into its Cisco Prime network management tools, which it sells to service providers to remotely manage equipment, and park the products in its the Network Management Technology Group. The ClearVision tool is particularly interesting for Cisco because it gives visibility into unmanaged devices linked to the IP network. The service will also be integrated with Cisco's Videoscape offering, which allows service providers to mash up pay TV, online, and other on-demand video sources into a single service.

ClearAccess has raised two rounds of venture funding: a $4m for Series A in 2007 and $6m for Series B in 2009. Investors include the Oregon Angel Fund, Montlake Capital, DFJ Frontier, and Blade Ventures.

The financial terms of the ClearAccess deal were not disclosed. Cisco expects the deal to close by the end of July, which is the end of its fourth quarter of fiscal 2012. ®

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