Large US Food Distributor simplifies operations with SDWAN (AWS re:Invent 2016)

Watch this video featuring Viptela’s VP of Product Management and Marketing, Ramesh Prabagaran, and Keith Schafer, Network Architect at a Fortune 500 national food distributor as they discuss the benefits of Viptela’s software-defined networking technology. Hear how a combination of bandwidth issues, security, scalability, and a desire to get out of the Data Center cloud were driving factors leading to switch from a more traditional WAN, to a software-defined WAN solution.

Transcript

Announcer: From Las Vegas, Nevada, it’s the Cube. Coverage of the AWS re: Invent 2016. Brought to you by AWS and its ecosystem partners. Now here’s your host, Stu Miniman.

Miniman: Welcome back to The Cube’s broadcast of AWS re: Invent: 2016, here in Las Vegas. Getting towards the end of our – I guess it’s Day Two. It was the keynote for Day One, but I’m happy to welcome to the program – first of all, we’ve got a practitioner on the program which I’m super-excited about, especially, near and dear to my heart, a networking guy. Keith Schafer is a network architect with a redacted Fortune 500 national food distributor. Keith, thanks for joining us.

Schafer: No, thank you for being here.

Miniman: And we’ve got Ramesh Prabagaran, who is VP of Product Management and Marketing with Viptela. Thanks for joining us.

Prabagaran: Absolutely. Thanks for having us back.

Miniman: All right. Keith, I have to start – I know you can’t talk about too much about your company, but just tell us a little bit about the scope of your role, what you do, and how that cloud thing fits into your world.

Schafer: We’ve got sites all over the country, and as we try to get out of our data center, and into the cloud, we had to struggle with how do we connect all of our sites to that without a single point of failure? Without that choke point. With Viptela at a branch, we can then extend that into a Viptela [rudder] in the cloud and have that kind of connectivity, just like we would have with a data center.

Miniman: All right. So, we’re definitely going to get into the Viptela stuff, but first of all – some of your statement there – are you talking about you know, closing down data centers and moving toward the public cloud, or –

Schafer: No –

Miniman: – you know, how does that work?

Schafer: It’s new functionality. It’s value-add. It’s new marketing, new sales, new markets that we’re getting into. So it’s increasing the role of the company, increasing the footprint.

Miniman: Yeah, so did you get to hear the keynote this morning?

Schafer: I did not.

Miniman: Okay. So, let me put the premise in front of you and see how it resonates. Amazon says, going forward, we’re going to be having less data centers. We’re going to put in less gear. Nobody wants to buy hardware anymore. You know, welcome, embrace – welcome to AWS.

Schafer: Right.

Miniman: You know, how does that resonate with your business?

Schafer: It’s exactly the direction that we’re going.

Miniman: Okay.

Schafer: Yeah, we’re going in that direction – we want to create the environment to scale. We want to be able to be agile, flexible, we want to be able to move wherever the market is. We’re not going to be able to do that with a data center. We need Amazon for that.

Miniman: All right. So Ramesh, I want to pull you into this. So, you know, we’ve had the opportunity to talk to Viptela a couple times at that other show that was actually in Vegas this year –

Prabagaran: That’s right.

Miniman: – we could mention it is [Unintelligible] world, so big ecosystem, but boy this one’s pretty impressive too. Explain to us how Viptela fits with AWS.

Prabagaran: Absolutely. So, if you look at the SD-WAN space itself, initially it was all about cost arbitrage. How can I take private circuits, public circuits, wireless, mix them together, then have your big [winners] connect to [ET]. Over the last year or so, we have seen a tremendous shift in that model. The cloud is becoming a centerpiece of that discussion. And especially with infrastructure as a service, like AWS, as Keith was pointing, lots of customers moving in that direction and so naturally, the question is, how do I extend my wide area into the cloud, right?

Today there are lots of sub-optimalities, and how do you access from a user sitting inside a remote site or a branch, traffic gets back-hauled all the way up to a data center and the cloud is a part of the data center. Now, customers have said here that’s very inefficient. Why is it I need to go from San Jose to Virginia to access an [Unintelligible] site that’s sitting right across the street from me? So naturally, unless you make the cloud part of the wide area and extend the wide area into the cloud, you won’t be able to solve those problems.

And that’s really where we see the opportunity. We were really thinking about, what is it that we will talk about at AWS, and every single customer that we spoke to said hey guys, this is a huge play for AWS in particular.

Miniman: All right. So Keith, you were starting to talk a little bit about Viptela, but why don’t you bring us back to, kind of, the problem statement. You know, what was it that led you to look – was it SD-WAN? Was that the, you know, did you know you wanted SD-WAN or was there something specific that you were looking for?

Schafer: It was a combination of things. We had a bandwidth issue. We had a scalability and growth issue with applications. We wanted to get into the cloud and get out of our data center. It’s more cost-effective. We can be more agile in terms of capital planning. And we could deploy more in terms of what we were giving to our customers. We needed a solution on the network side that allowed all of that to work at once. We didn’t want to make this one investment more than once.

Miniman: I guess what I’m trying to focus in on is like, did you feel like, oh, I knew I had some WAN issue, maybe it’s WAN optimization, maybe I can go to one of the big guys and they could solve it. But you know, what funneled you down to choose Viptela?

Schafer: Security. Ease of deployment. And the fact that we have a partner in terms of support and ongoing growth, that we simply couldn’t get anywhere else.

Miniman: All right. Is that pretty typical, you find? Is security kind of one of the things that’s differentiating you in this [space]?

Prabagaran: Yeah, the trigger points are multiple, right? One, invariably, there is a high bandwidth application that’s driving the need for somebody to go look beyond their status quo, right? So that’s invariably number one. The second one, the larger the customer, the more acute the pain-point is with respect to security. And the third piece of it is really cloud, and cloud here being both AWS-like infrastructure as a service, and at the same time, Office 365. The number of times we have heard customers say Office 365 breaks my WAN, I mean if I had to count, I would be a millionaire, seriously.

So, it’s really a very interesting topic that multiple customers are looking at, because they need to get that deployment right, right? And so the trigger points are multiple, but it all kind of hones in on bandwidth, security, cloud. Right? That’s kind of where it all comes together.

Miniman: It’s interesting, Keith. I mean, I look back in my career and one of the challenges for doing any mobile, doing anything remote – go back to the XSPs of the nineties through all of these things that have led to cloud is like –network is one of those choke points. Just getting enough bandwidth, you know, really having the responsiveness, has been a challenge. Are we getting to the point where we can actually solve these network issues? I mean, we haven’t solved the physics problems of you know, making light go any faster, so is network a problem for you, or is network an enabler for you now?

Schafer: With Viptela and the ability to have different kinds of transport brought in, network really has stopped being a pain-point for us. We’re able to do Office 365, Salesforce. And extend into Amazon for development, interlock locations, and customer facing applications, and do so without having to worry so much about the network. That piece has now been taken care of.

Miniman: All right. Speak a little bit about just kind of your experience with Amazon. Do you use more than one public cloud, or, you know, how deep is adoption, if you can share?

Schafer: It’s multi-region, multi-availability zones. We go pretty deep in terms of the security groups. We’re U.S.-based, so obviously, we’re not looking to go into global regions. But being able to have something on both coasts for high availability, being able to scale and grow – we’re at the point right now where we realize how much we can’t do with a data center that we can with an Amazon cloud.

Miniman: Yeah, and from the networking side, things like VPC or direct connect – [Unintelligible] you’ll ever do those?

Schafer: VPC, but with security, and the Viptela add-on to that allows us to have a common set of control and protocols and an understanding from a support environment. And from a security standpoint as well. Security [team] is really what Viptela brings, and mixing that into Amazon allows us to trust Amazon that much better.

Miniman: Now, Ramesh, networking came up a bunch this week. Amazon – everything – I don’t know is you saw the James Hamilton presentation last night, but it’s like, they’re doing their own chips, they’re 25 gig, they’re doing all this. Still, I don’t see it as overlapping with what your company is doing. What do you think about networking and the Amazon ecosystem these days?

Prabagaran: Absolutely. So, I think that it’s kind of the last problem to solve in the ecosystem of things, right? So, computers, storage, and then followed by the network. Now certainly, AWS had done a phenomenal job with automating quite a few pieces with respect to the network, bringing in security groups, having communication across multiple regions, and whatnot, right? The part that multiple customers such as Keith are trying to solve, is how do I come from my site into AWS, right?

Because AWS has done a phenomenal job at optimizing connectivity across multiple availability zones and so forth. But is [Unintelligible0:09:14] a geographically spread-out footprint, how do I access it from my location into AWS? And AWS is not one location, it’s geographically spread-out, right? So now you have to really optimize for connectivity. It goes back to the direct connect argument that you just brought up, right?

Our customers are looking at, can I go over internet, over VPN technology? Can I use direct connect, can I exit out locally at my branch? Or my site? Do I need to go to my [DMZ]? Do I need to go to my carrier [Unintelligible0:09:42] facility? So, the choices are actually evolving very well, but the underlying guts to connect everything together is really what we are providing.

Miniman: So, Keith, last thing I want to cover with you is, you know, sometimes these changes can be difficult on the organization. It’s really encouraging to hear, you know, networking team and clouds look like they go hand-in-hand. You know, how do those fit together. What lessons have you learned going along? You know, what would you say to your peers about how they should address these kinds of things?

Schafer: I would tell them don’t go too fast. Take your time. And understand the organization and the data-flow that goes into that cloud, and how you’re going to use that How you’re going to bring that back into your environment. And what of the things that your concerned the most about? Is it security? Is it just connectivity? You know. Take your time, make sure you get it right.

Miniman: Now, I want you to clarify something because I used to give presentations talking about networking, and I would talk about how the networking and enterprise moves by the decade. You know, it’s like we ratified 10 gig in 2002 and by 2012 we had reasonable adoption, so…you say move slowly, um, you’re not talking wait a decade to do something, right?

Schafer: No. I’m not talking about years; I’m talking about months. I’m talking about, take some time, figure out how this takes – because it’s not just about moving into the cloud, it’s connecting the cloud back into your organization.

Miniman: Yeah, don’t just swipe a credit card and go, you know, run off and do something, you know. Actually plan, talk to some people.

Schafer: This is a piece that allows us to bring this, Amazon, and our company together in way that I don’t think we could do anywhere else.

Miniman: All right. Ramesh, I want to give you the final words, kind of the big takeaway from the show, the thing you want to leave us with.

Prabagaran: Absolutely. So, I think there are multiple solutions that AWS provides in order to optimally connect into AWS, and there are also complementary technologies that you need to use in order to connect from your site into AWS, right? And so, what I would leave people with is, when you’re looking at that model, you kind of need to own both of those endpoints, right? Because it’s not about just do I have a [pipe] to get out there; if I have multiple paths, how do I choose the most optimal one, right?

It could be based on laws, latency, [jitter], a whole bunch of things. What we have done is we have [moved] the wide area into the cloud. Which mean we own an instance inside of a VPC that resides inside of AWS and we protect all the assets and all the applications [residing] inside of AWS, just like we would protect if it is inside a branch, right? And so, we want customers to think, like, okay my AWS location is not an extension of my data center, it’s actually an integral part of the wide area.

And once that happens, then traffic starts to flow really, really freely, and the possibilities are endless.

Miniman: Keith, really appreciate you sharing your journey of where you’ve gone and where you’re going. Ramesh, thank you for giving the update and for [bringing] a great customer to talk with us and our audience. Stay with us, we’ll be giving a few more interviews here, as we have wall-to-wall coverage from AWS re:Invent 2016 in Las Vegas. Thirty-two thousand people. You’re watching The Cube.

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