Viptela CEO in #theCUBE for #GoogleNext17

Praveen Akkiraju, Viptela CEO, speaks to theCUBE host John Furrier at SiliconANGLE studios to discuss cloud, connectivity and news from #GoogleNext17.

Cloud providers like Google, AWS and Microsoft need a new connectivity solution to improve the on-boarding experience for their customers. Viptela is “redefining the network connectivity between users and applications for the cloud era,” says Akkiraju, adding that users are connecting to applications in new ways via the cloud, devices and branch offices.


praveen akkiraju
Praveen Akkiraju CEO, Viptela

Praveen Akkiraju is Chief Executive Officer of Viptela, the leader in Software Defined WAN technology. His team is building a network fabric which helps customers to dramatically simplify the infrastructure connecting the network edge to applications in the cloud. Praveen has built several billion dollar businesses in data center and enterprise networking over the course of his 25 year career.


Announcer: Live, from Silicon Valley, it’s theCUBE, covering Google Cloud Next ‘17.

Stu Miniman: Welcome back to theCUBE. We’re doing two days of live coverage here of the Google Next 2017, here from the center of Silicon Valley from our 4500-square-foot Palo Alto studio. Happy to bring back to the program a multi-time guest, but first time in his new role, Praveen Akkiraju, now the CEO of Viptela. Thank you for joining us.

Praveen Akkiraju: Thanks, Stu. A real pleasure to be here.

Miniman: You know, Praveen, we were joking – it’s like you first came on theCUBE back in 2012, you’ve been on the program many of our shows, but now you’re at our place here, we’ve got the nice studio here, so [Crosstalk] –

Akkiraju: Yeah, it’s really impressive. You guys have come a long way, and it’s been an awesome show, when I was at VCE, and I’m really excited to be back here with you.

Miniman: Awesome. Thank you so much. So, why don’t you give our audience, you know, why Viptela – what was exciting to you about the opportunity? We’ve had the pleasure of interviewing some of your folks over the last couple of years at shows like VMworld and the like, so…

Akkiraju: Absolutely. And I think it’s interesting right, when you think about what’s going on in the IT industry as a whole, there’s a revolution going on in the cloud. The show that you guys are covering, as well as what’s been happening over the last couple of years. Applications are basically migrating out of the data center, whether it’s into the public cloud, into, you know, PaaS platforms, SaaS platforms, and suchlike.

Similarly, at the edge, the users have been migrating away from their desktops, right? Mobility has unleashed, essentially, the user to be wherever they need to be and be able to still be productive. In addition to that, you have a whole bunch of things happening at the edge in terms of devices and things coming on board. Now if you think about these two worlds, and the revolution that’s happening there, the actual connectivity between those two has been frozen in time, right?

A majority of the enterprises today are still connected using MPLS-VPN technology, which is invented 20 years ago to solve the problem of, you know, ATM-like emulation [or] IP. So, I think, what was really interesting to me about Viptela is, it is truly about redefining the network connectivity between users and applications, right, for the cloud era. And that’s really what our mission is, and that’s what we’re really excited about.

Miniman: Yeah, Praveen, it reminds me a lot of what we saw in the data centers when we came to networking.

Akkiraju: Yes.

Miniman: There was that big shift for a number of years in saying well, it was the client-to-server, and then that machine-to-machine. Everything that happened with virtualization – we went from north-south traffic to east-west traffic

Akkiraju: Exactly.

Miniman: – we talked to [Forever Now] as the cloud pulls in, those connectivity, [hope] we’re reinventing what’s happening in WAN.

Akkiraju: Yeah, absolutely. I mean think of it, right? So, like if you’re a user, you might be accessing your applications at a data center, but you might need to access something on a SaaS platform. Well, if you’re sitting there in a branch office, do you want to go back to the data center and then head out to the cloud, or do you want to be able to take the best path out, right? Most branches today have internet connections that are faster than anything MPLS-VPN can provide.

On fact, there’s a data point one of our customers gave us: the per-megabyte cost for MPLS-VPN is about 200 dollars, right? The per-megabyte cost for internet is about two dollars, right? And you think about the speed as symmetry, obviously the [SLAs] are different, right? So, you want to be able to make sure that you can leverage the best connectivity, but also make sure the applications are mapped to the appropriate SLA transport.

So, what we do is, essentially, we think of ourselves as the next-generation overlay, right? So, we can, the Viptela fabric essentially encompasses MPLS-VPN, internet, LTE interconnectivity, and we are able to understand what happens in the underlay, but enterprises can just focus on how they want their users to connect to their applications without having to understand what’s happening underneath, right?

So, that’s truly the power of the software-defined world, if you will.

Miniman: Yeah, so, we’ve been talking for a few years – that whole SDN wave that came out – Google talks about themselves as the largest SDN company out there, but most of the discussion seems to have moved on, beyond SDN.

Akkiraju: Yes.

Miniman: Your area of SD-WAN is definitely one of the hot conversations, you know. Where are customers in kind of understanding this transition, and where the things fit?

Akkiraju: Yeah, it’s a great point. I mean, the first wave of software-defined networking was essentially sort of about solving the data center connectivity problem, right? So, how do you connect machines more dynamically? How do connect capacity more dynamically so applications can kind of migrate? This notion of sort of machine-to-machine communication in a dynamic fashion. And being able to potentially even [stripe] it out to the cloud, right?

But the first wave did not address how users connect to their applications. So, we think of ourselves, from an SD-WAN perspective, as kind of leading that second wave of software-defined networking, which truly is about user experience and application experience. Connecting users, wherever they are, to applications wherever they are, in a scalable, secure, and dynamic fashion.

Miniman: You know, and do you get a very different discussion from what I think of, the guys from Nicira, that turned into the NXS, that seemed very tied-in to how VMware talks about that hybrid environment. When you talk about, you know, when VMware on AWS goes in –

Akkiraju: That’s right.

Miniman: – you know, I need NSX in there. You know, you worked at Cisco a number of years – what they’re doing with ACI now, is talking more about that, as opposed to – you’re at the client, the application layer.

Akkiraju: Exactly, right? And I think, at the end of the day, we optimized how applications can migrate and move, right, and how they can get the best capacity. But the whole purpose is to really deliver those applications to the users. And, you know, the WAN has kind of been this, it has been frozen in time for twenty years, primarily because it’s hard, right? It is really hard to be able to figure out what the underlay actually looks like.

I mean, some of our customers are global. I mean, we have sites in Vietnam, in India, in the U.S., obviously. But it’s a global footprint, and being able to overlay something on top, that still gives you the predictable performance, and is secure, is something that has been a hard problem to solve, right? And that’s what’s really exciting about what we’re doing at Viptela.

Miniman: Yeah. It’s really interesting stuff. Can you talk about how you guys partner with, interact with, the public cloud environment?

Akkiraju: Yeah, so we’re obviously, most of our controllers are hosting AWS as well as well as Verizon, which is our key partner. These are the two big sort of partners for us in terms of our controllers. But we think about, we partner with AWS, we partner with Microsoft from an Office 365 perspective, and there’s a lot of our customers who want to have a much more predictable, low-latency access to Office 365, right?

A lot of our customers have workloads in AWS. So, we’re able to actually spin up a version of our device to front-end VPCs and AWS, so you can then terminate – you know, essentially we treat the cloud as a node in the fabric, right? So, it inherits all the policies, it inherits all the security aspects of it Day One. So, it’s really super-simple to set up, right? We don’t treat the cloud separately, we just say well, here’s another branch, or a [head end], and let’s just kind of connect it in and let the customer define the policies that they see fit.

Miniman: That’s great. So, you know, AWS and Office 365 – leaders in their categories, you know – got the Google show going on this week, you know. What do you hear from your customers when it comes to G Suite and Google Cloud?

Akkiraju: Yeah, I mean, there’s a lot of customers who use the G Suite, mainly Google Docs particularly, you know, in the context, you know, of some of the small-medium businesses that we work with. So, again, our job is to really bring users to the applications with the lowest latency and the best experience possible, right? So, a lot of the cloud providers essentially don’t necessarily worry about how customers get there, right?

They just assume the customer shows up at the door, whether it’s a SaaS platform or infrastructure as a service platform. So, our partnerships with a lot of these providers are about ensuring that, you know, we can collectively guarantee that their users get the best platform and that creates more stickiness for them, right, in terms of their service.

Miniman: Okay. Let’s talk about Viptela for a second. You know, what’s on your plate this year? Those industry watchers – what should we be expecting to see form you coming forward?

Akkiraju: Yeah, I know – what’s interesting about Viptela is when we talk about, obviously, software-defined WAN as a category, and clearly, as I mentioned, there’s a huge, latent requirement to evolve the WAN connectivity. And I would think of what Viptela does is sort of the next-generation overlay. And we talked about some of the different forms of connectivity which we give the control back to the enterprise. To say “All you need to worry about, Mr. Customer, is say, how can I define the segment or a policy per user, per application.”

So, that’s been sort of the focus of our initial use-case for our fabric, and we’ve been tremendously successful. You know, most of – we focus primarily on the Global Fortune 1000-type customers, so we have some, pretty much every vertical is represented in our customer base. Large financials, industrial companies, car companies, retailers, healthcare, and suchlike.

But we think about this fabric as, you know, essentially solving the problem of connectivity. So, the next phase of our solution is really about how do we make the cloud connectivity really simple and secure, right? So, we’re going to launch something in that space where we make connectivity to infrastructure so the SaaS platform is really seamless, right, as part of our platform. So, if you’re a user in a branch or at the edge, you should be able to connect to your data center at the same level of experience and security as you would go to your cloud.

So, we want to make that super-seamless. So, that’s I think we call that cloud on-ramps, that’s something that we’re going to be announcing pretty soon. And when I think about sort of the longer-term evolution of this, because of the platform is fundamentally grounded in routing, right? In understanding how scale happens, right? We’ve taken the traditional routing stack and disaggregated it.

There’s a data plane that’s onsite, right? And there’s a control plane, which is essentially your routing, and a management orchestration plane that sits in the cloud. So, this allows us to solve many problems, right? So, we can extrapolate forward and say well, there’s whole problem in the Internet of Things, right? What is the Internet of Things problem? It is a whole bunch of devices at the edge, which need to be connected to endpoints whether it’s a data center or a collection point, dynamically, right, depending on the phase of their –

So, those are the kinds of problems we think we can solve. So, Viptela is interesting, because it’s not just about SD-WAN, it’s really about the next-generation overlay between the users and the cloud, and being able to address multiple-use cases.

Miniman: Okay. And there are a number of companies, you know – plenty of start-ups, some of the big guys there in the market – what really differentiates you guys, you know, what do your customers come to you for that the other guys can’t do?

Akkiraju: Yeah, I think it’s, I would say really, it’s – so, we’re all routing geeks, right? You know, I pretty much spent 19 years at Cisco, built every platform that Cisco ships today, and so are most of the members of the team. So, we have I think one of the strongest collections of networking talent in the industry. And what we’re able to do with that is, as I mentioned, reimagine what the network connectivity needs to look like, in the era of cloud, in the era of Internet of Things.

So, our architecture fundamentally is modular, as I mentioned. There’s a data plane, a control plane, management orchestration plane – we are cloud-managed and cloud-delivered. So, we solve for scale very elegantly, because we inherently use the properties of routing that has allowed the internet to scale to what it is, as part of the core of our solution, right? That’s one thing else you need.

The second aspect of this is, for us, security is a Day Zero thing, right? When we bring up a box with zero-touch provisioning, it comes up with an IP [unintelligible 0:12:36] that’s encrypted. And we do it without having to change keys, so it’s inherently secure, right? So, that is a very significant issue, because if you are using the internet as your pipe for your mission-critical traffic, how do you assure yourself that you’re not going to be hacked, right?

And your traffic is not being intercepted. So, that’s – some of the largest financial institutions have bet on our architecture, because they trust that, right? So, that’s a second piece. The third piece is, from an application policy perspective – we have the ability, with our controllers, to be able to push policies and create segmentations for different use-cases on a dynamic basis. So, I’ll give you an example.

So, if you have a user in a branch, right? And you have – basically, another user comes in, they have a different set of requirements – you can dynamically stitch up a tunnel from your cloud controller to enable that to happen without ever to touch or configure any of the end boxes, right? So, a cloud platform gives us a tremendous amount of scale and flexibility. So, that’s the way I think about it – scalability, security, application policy, and the different use-cases that we’re able to bring to bear, right?

Miniman: Yeah. So, final question I have for you Praveen, you know: the networking world is changing faster than it used to.

Akkiraju: Yep. Finally.

Miniman: But I think back to – you know, for many years, I would do slides on networking –

Akkiraju: Right.

Miniman: – and we talk about decade-scale. It’s like, you know, okay here’s how the standard comes, here’s how it rolls out, here’s how adoption, the enterprise is risk-averse. Slow to change. Not doing anything. Why are things so exciting now in the network space? What’s different? What’s driving that movement? Are customers moving faster?

Akkiraju: Yeah. That’s a great question and, you know, I think you put it differently – networking enjoyed architectural consistency and stability for almost two decades. Which is not the case when you think about the data center or some of the other environments where there’s constant change, right? Now, having said that, you know, when we think about what’s driving this change, it’s really that these two revolutions that are going on – one on the edge, where users are evolving really rapidly, whether it’s connectivity or sort of devices and suchlike; and one in the data center and the cloud, where applications are fundamentally changing – they’re ephemeral, they’re able to migrate between locations.

So, that’s putting a lot of pressure back onto the network to say hey, we need the network to be a lot more dynamic. We need the network to be a lot more flexible, a lot more cost-effective. And that is the fundamental driver, right, which we see as driving the customer’s willingness to say “I need to really look at the network.” And the other aspect of this is, you know as I said, we reimagined networking ground up.

You know, a clean sheet of paper, learn the lessons from the past and say, how do you make this painless for the customer? The reason why the network, particularly the WAN, has been stagnant is, it is painful, right? I mean, it involves multiple connectivities, multiple carriers, right? Multiple policies. It’s not something that most enterprises want to deal with. By extracting all that complexity away, right, we allow customers to focus on what they care about.

It’s “How do I connect, enable user connect with applications”, and we take care of the underlay, right? So, I think those are the key things. I mean, it’s essentially the last leg of the stool, if you will, in terms of moving, truly moving to the cloud era.

Miniman: All right. Well, Praveen Akkiraju, thank you so much for joining us again. You’re watching the worldwide leader in live enterprise tech coverage, theCUBE.

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