Amir Khan, Viptela
#VMworld 2016 #theCUBE
What is an infrastructure for the 21st Century? According to Amir Khan, founder, president and CEO of Viptela, Inc., from the Internet and connectivity perspective, the industry is at what he calls the “railroad stage,” and we need to get to the “airplane stage” in order to support the enterprise of the future.
Khan joined John Walls (@johnwalls21) and Keith Townsend (@CTOAdvisor), host and guest host of theCUBE, from the SiliconANGLE Media team, during VMworld 2016 US, taking place at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, NV, to provide his vision for the infrastructure for the 21st Century.
Khan explained that talking to customers today is vastly different from even three years ago. Back then, customers didn’t want their information in the cloud.
However, today, with Office 365, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems and various other systems burdening the infrastructure, he asked, “Do you try to expand within the current way of doing things, which was done for the physical infrastructure, or do you build your infrastructure for the cloud era?”
A fresh start
As a startup, Viptela started with a “clean sheet” and built its infrastructure to support the new applications anywhere it is with security and elasticity.
“The consumers of applications and sources of applications have become mobile, so in order to accommodate that you need the 21st Century infrastructure,” Khan explained.
Viptela boasted secure extensible network solution components, and security is top of mind for Khan. He feels the industry needs to start looking at security differently. The company offers active monitoring of all activity by default. The company puts controls on all entry and exit points of its network.
Comparing cybersecurity to travel security is one way to look at it. “If we have many, many roads all over the country, you need to put monitoring stations on each one of those roads. If you have an airplane coming into a country and you have checkpoints for people exiting and entering from there, it becomes relatively easy for you to have very stringent measures at those locations,” Khan noted.
Amir Khan is a 20+ year veteran of the networking industry with a strong track record of driving multi-billion dollar product lines in both enterprise and service provider segments. Prior to Viptela, Amir led the enterprise routing business & product management for MX and M series routers at Juniper.
Announcer:Live from the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas it’s the CUBE covering VMworld 2016, brought to you by VMware and its ecosystem sponsors. Now here’s your host, John Walls.
John Walls: And welcome back to Las Vegas here in Mandalay Bay. I’m John Walls along with my colleague Keith Townsend. Keith, good to see you sir.
Keith Townsend: Good to be here, John.
John Walls: First time working together on the CUBE.
Keith Townsend: Only my second CUBE interview.
John Walls: Oh my gosh. We’re breaking all kinds of ground here. Live here at VMworld continuing our week long coverage here. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday bringing you all the noise from inside what’s happening here at VMworld. A lot of exciting announcements today and we’re now joined by a gentleman who is looking to carve out a fairly interesting niche for his own company’s well-being, Amir Khan, who’s the CEO and co-founder of Viptela. And Amir, you and I were talking before the interview and I said you describe yourself as an infrastructure provider for the 21st Century. So what does that mean? 21st Century. What’s that? Because you’re very clear to put that time tag on there.
Amir Khan: Right. I mean if you think about it from the internet perspective and from private connectivity perspective for the enterprises, we are where roads and railroads used to be in the early 1900s. Right? And now what we are building is an airplane industry that needs to take it into a very different dimension. So we are doing the same thing for private connectivity that happened to that type of an infrastructure in the past.
John Walls: So take me into the 21st Century then. If I’m still kicking and dragging and screaming, what do I need to be thinking about or what should I be thinking about in terms of maximizing or optimizing my operations that you can do for me that I’m not doing for myself right now?
Amir Khan: Yeah. So for me to answer that question, let’s look at where things are. If you talked to the customers three years ago, the Cloud services, Cloud applications, a lot of them did not even want to put stuff in the Cloud. Today Office 365, ERP systems, HR systems, everything is getting more and more utilized. All of a sudden you have a lot of burden on your existing infrastructure so what do you do? Do you continue to try and expand the current way of doing things which was done for the physical infrastructure or do you build your infrastructure for the Cloud era to accommodate the new applications?
And the second dimension is that the budgets of people are not increasing. The cost of deploying private infrastructure is extremely high today. Right? You buy an MPLS connection from a provider, it maybe $300 to maybe $15,000 depending upon where you are in the world. But if you buy an internet connection for your home, you pay maybe $49.99 or $89.99 depending upon how much bandwidth you want. But it could be a hundred times faster. So people are starting to realize that a lot of the infrastructure needs to be built out so applications can be accommodated anywhere they are. The consumer applications and the sources of applications, they have both become mobile. So in order to accommodate that, you need the 21st Century infrastructure.
John Walls: So then how do you differentiate yourself in that marketplace? I mean you’re a company of a fewer than 200. You’re looking to catch some big fish.
Amir Khan: Yup.
John Walls: And so how do you stand out in that crowd?
Amir Khan: So think of it as putting wings on a train. Right? It doesn’t fly. You know? So what we have done is we had a clean sheet of paper and we looked at what the customer problems were and what they were trying to accomplish. And we took a step back and we said we will bring a brand new solution to the market which addresses all of the concerns for the customers. So it needs to be inherently secure. It needs to be extremely elastic so that you can extend connectivity from anywhere to anywhere without even having to think about it.
Keith Townsend: I’m sorry. So this anywhere from anywhere concept, Pat talked a lot about that this morning, the ability to manage multiple Clouds. One of the stats I’ve heard is that many enterprise customers have up to eight Cloud providers on average.
Amir Khan: Yeah.
Keith Townsend: What are some of those challenges that your customers come and talk to you about and how are you solving those challenges?
Amir Khan: So if you look at the – let’s take an example of the financial institutes. They may be paying somewhere between $200,000,000 to maybe $500,000,000 a year in telecom costs. You put more burden on that infrastructure by putting applications in the Cloud. All of a sudden the physical infrastructure and the limited entry and exit points that they have into the Cloud services, they start to become choke points. So what you need is an inherently distributed infrastructure which provides complete flexibility and inherent security to you, so that you can create more exit and entry points and optimally carry the traffic to those applications sitting in a Cloud, which is not possible today.
You can try to accomplish it but things start falling apart very, very quickly. And that’s why when customers come to us and they try out our infrastructure it is, you know, it’s very cleanly built so that the control plane, the management plane and the data plane are independently scalable, right, to the largest deployments in the world. Whether it’s 50 sites or 100 sites to tens of thousands of sites, our infrastructure is built in a way that it scales to those environments.
Keith Townsend: So when we talk about scale and the ability to scale those three different layers of the enterprise and the data plane, the control plane, the management plane, why is that important? Because I don’t think about that today with my typical boxes. Why is it important in today’s infrastructure?
Amir Khan: It is important because, again, for the flexibility. So let’s say a financial institute has 5,000 branches and they may have 20,000 ATM machines. And on top of that they may have 60,000 or so, you know, call center agents. Right? All of those nodes that sit in the infrastructure today are independent. They’re inherently distributed and a control plane is sitting in each one of those devices. What we’ve done is extracted that manageability and the control piece, put it into the Cloud and made it inherently scalable. And then on top of that some of the companies had started already doing some pieces of the control plane and putting it into the Cloud but they forgot that the architecture in addition to the control and management plane needs to be extended so that you can accommodate the application loads going forward.
Keith Townsend: So what are some of those natural pay points? I understand the concept of extended into the Cloud.
Amir Khan: Right.
Keith Townsend: What happens when I don’t?
Amir Khan: So, you know, because your applications are extending anyways, so you have no choice.
Keith Townsend: Right.
Amir Khan: Right. So you need to accommodate and where are you going to put the firewalls? Are you going to put them in all 5,000 locations or are you going to put them in the Cloud or are you going to centralize them? You know, if you need to share the traffic into a new firewall from the existing firewall, are you going to be able to do it on the fly or do you have to make a project which takes a year to accommodate those new requirements for the applications? Right? So that type of stuff is not available today but, you know, if I can do, provide complete flexibility where you can create centralized policy so that it can accommodate your business needs, then that becomes very attractive for the enterprise customers. Literally I mean we just are in the process of deploying almost a 6,000 node network. Right?
It was centrally controlled and managed, which we won against Cisco and, you know, they had two providers and they were playing let’s say x amount of money to these providers. Within that x amount of money or maybe a little more, they eliminated one of the providers. They kept the private connectivity from one. And then they went to internet plus wireless, you know, at the same, all of those branches. Now when the disaster occurs, people want to have loss milder than [NC] also. So wireless connectivity provides you with that redundancy. It’s a connection of last resort. And the internet, the broadband connection accommodates new application loads better. So in our solution we provide active, you know, monitoring of all types of connectivity by default. You know, all these pieces, if you were to accomplish something today, it is very, very complex to bring in each element of the solution.
We have a very comprehensive solution which starts from connectivity, inherently securing it in a scale at the control, management and data plane, elasticity, right, accommodating different types of applications. Whether it’s video, broadcast applications, you know, voice applications, etcetera. And at the same time be able to have the flexibility to extend your connectivity anywhere in the world. Right? Today you are constrained by the boundaries of the provider. Tomorrow you want to have the flexibility so that, you know, if you are putting a branch in Asia somewhere, you should not have to think about it. You should be able to go and get a provider, you know, who’s local to that environment in a very cost effective manner and be able to extend your private connectivity in a secure manner to that environment.
John Walls: All right. So you’ve mentioned security a couple of times here. We’ve talked about firewalls just a big ago and you’re talking about these remote environments, right? You know, Asia, Africa, wherever you might be.
Amir Khan: Yeah.
John Walls: But security then, let’s focus on that a little bit and talk about that as far as a challenge for you.
Amir Khan: Yup.
John Walls: And how much of a concern it should be for the end user and maybe how much it hasn’t been in the past. That it’s not top of the mind. It’s almost like okay, we’re done with everything. We’ve checked all the boxes. Now let’s think about security.
Amir Khan: Yeah. So I think again as I said, you know, we are, you know, at the point where we need to start looking at security in a very different manner, right. If we have many, many roads and we have a border with a country, right, you have to put, you know, monitoring stations on each one of those roads. Right? If you have an airplane and it’s coming over the top into a country and you have checkpoints for people entering and exiting from there, it becomes relatively easy for you to have very stringent measures at those locations. So think of us as providing the ability to control the environment much better than before, right. So let me give you an example. One of the major retailers, their network was compromised because somebody stole a vendor’s credentials and came into the network and hopped onto the point of sales systems.
John Walls: I didn’t hear about that.
Amir Khan: It was big news a couple of years back, right.
John Walls: Yeah, right. I just – yes, it was.
Amir Khan: And they installed the malware to extract all the credit card information. Now if they had secure segmentation at scale, right, it would be very, very difficult to penetrate that infrastructure and, you know, steal the information. So cyber security is obviously a major concern for everybody and a lot of our customers because they have not been able to meet their compliance requirements, whether it’s the wide area infrastructure or even deeper inside their network.
We went to a healthcare provider who said that their hospital room some of the machines were exposed because the doctors would come into, you know, a Windows machine and go to the internet and, you know, attract a virus. Right? And, you know, they just want to make sure that even inside the infrastructure, they have secure segmentation. So once you provide a very comprehensive solution which meets the needs of the customers, they will start to come up with many new ideas to start to extend your solution into many different environments, right, because now they have another tool to deal with.
John Walls: So let’s take a look down the road for you. I mentioned the size of your company. You’ve gone from four employees to 168 in four years.
Amir Khan: Yeah.
John Walls: A pretty good growth.
Amir Khan: Yeah.
John Walls: But you’re looking to make that jump to the next level. How do you do that and how do you make yourself attractive then to those big dogs, if you will, these fairly sizable accounts that you’re going after.
Amir Khan: A very important question, right? When you start a small startup, right, the first order is to execute and deliver the solution, prove it out. Now we have proven it out with many, many production deployments, you know, in the range of over a hundred production deployments right now. We have over 15,000 devices today installed in production. Right? And now what do you do to scale that company where you’re able to cater to the needs of thousands and thousands of customers. First thing is the initial employees that you hire in each one of the functions in the company, they have to be very knowledgeable. They have to be leaders in their own space. Right? And then you try to build the teams around them. They always say, you know, you hire As, you get As. You hire Bs, you get Cs. Right?
So our focus is on hiring very strong talent, whether it’s engineering, customer support, sales, marketing, finance, any function within the company. We try to focus on hiring the top talent in the industry. And that has allowed us to, you know, expand our company very, very quickly. One person can do the job of multiple people. The second piece is how do you keep the costs under control? So rather than going outside of the country, we have tried to hire, you know, fresh grads, very, very knowledgeable kids from you know some very, very good schools to balance that out so that our cost is under control. And then on top of that you have to have governance, right, to run the business. To make sure that you are properly audited so that the larger customers can work with you, right? And they have peace of mind that this company is run properly. So we’ve been working with the likes of Deloitte from the beginning to do our financial audits and inventory audits.
And then on top of that, you know, how do you become global as a startup? Many startups do not even cleanly transition to becoming a global company. Right? So from the get go, we have been global. Our first deployment was global, international between Asia and Europe. And we were, you know, controlling that infrastructure sitting in the U.S. Right? So we are certified in over 80 countries now across the globe. We have distribution channels which are able to cater to the needs of our customers globally. Because by nature all of our financial customers, a lot of our healthcare customers, retailers, pretty much everybody’s global nowadays, right. So we have set up the infrastructures so we can scale with the customers that we are working with.
John Walls: I wish you the best of luck. It sounds like you have a pretty good footprint underway here and a roadmap to a very successful future. And thanks for the time, for joining us here on the CUBE, Amir.
Amir Khan: Thank you very much.
John Walls: Great to have you.
Amir Khan: Thank you very much. I really appreciate that.
John Walls: We’ll be back with more from the VMworld here on the CUBE in Las Vegas in just a bit.
Amir Khan: Thank you.