This featured interview with VeloCloud CEO and Co-Founder, Sanjay Uppal, is a part of the ongoing ONUG CEO Corner Series.
In the last few years, the rise of cloud computing and its complexities has given rise to a crop of precocious start-ups, causing a gradual but dramatic shift in the networking industry.
Most enterprises, typically tied to older, hardware-based networking architectures, are weighed down by vendor lock-ins, computing silos, and exorbitant operational costs. The mix of cloud computing into this equation has raised serious security, scaling and monumental network management issues. This climate has made for a great opening for the start-ups rolling out comprehensive, secure, scalable, yet simple software defined networking solutions that work with hybrid cloud computing environments.
These companies, along with leading, established providers, are crucial to ONUG’s goal to bring SDN open solutions to the enterprise. In an effort to get a better understanding of the on-going vision of these start-up and incumbent providers, ONUG brings you the CEO Corner Series.
CEO and Co-Founder, VeloCloud
ONUG: What market factors made you invest in a technology that was still unproven back in 2012?
Uppal: Three sets of enterprise requirements were instrumental in our founding: first, the complexity of branch-office networking in terms of set-up, maintenance and security; second, the hardware sprawl across the enterprise with every device performing just one function and resulting in huge operational expenses needed a fix; and, third, the price/performance of WAN transports became front-and-center as private networking tended to be much more expensive than the Internet. These three factors made for a perfect storm, and we saw the opportunity to bring cloud and virtualization technologies to solve this problem in 2012. What we are doing is simply converting a product that is physical into a service that is virtual.
ONUG: The software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) segment is getting crowded with several start-up solutions. How do you differentiate your portfolio with potential customers?
Uppal: There is a perception that the SD-WAN space is crowded, but it is a broad market and can accommodate multiple approaches. Our approach is that the cloud is the network; we bet on the cloud becoming a disruptive force, and it is happening.
Branch offices typically have to deal with the complexity of a mix of transports ranging from Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS), Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) and cable to Long-Term Evolution (LTE) and the Internet. Hardware appliances have to be connected on both sides of each connection, and deal with each transport individually. Instead, if the branch office were to connect securely to the cloud, the underlying complexity can be abstracted. The cloud as the network, is an intrinsic part of our SD-WAN solution.
We offer both on-premise and cloud services. Using this approach, enterprises can use our secure data plane to add virtual services on-the-fly in the branch, cloud or in both places.
Thirdly, another unique feature we provide is a secure multi-tenancy capability. This allows our cloud service to be securely shared across departments within the enterprise, or across enterprises to provide control to different constituents – service providers, operators, channel partners. Finally, we can steer applications on a per-packet and per-flow basis which is superior to an offering that only offers flow-by-flow steering for real-time applications, and over Internet links.
ONUG: What is your business model and how is it different from those of the competitors?
Uppal: We are the only vendor that offers a public-cloud service as well as a private cloud on-premise offering.
We have a quick-to- market subscription model that lets large enterprises bring cloud services to their branch offices, a model competitors do not offer. We also provide the flexibility of an on-premise solution. Enterprises typically start with the subscription services which require little initial investment and then add the on-premises solution as needed.
ONUG: Can you describe your architecture/product offerings?
Uppal: VeloCloud’s architecture, the Cloud Delivered SD-WAN, comprises three components: VeloCloud Edge, which is a physical or virtual appliance that resides in the branch office with an optional on-premise version in the data center; next, is the VeloCloud Gateway which is a virtual machine and software that resides in public and private clouds globally; third, is the VeloCloud Orchestrator, the controller that manages how edges are securely connected to gateways, collects analytics from the running systems and provides compliance with enterprises’ business policy. These components can be in the cloud as well as on premise.
ONUG: Is a global marketplace part of the equation?
Uppal: Our target market is the enterprise across different verticals and geographies. For example, we recently announced a partnership with NetOne, based in Japan. We select partners on their ability to host VeloCloud’s cloud service and be a channel partner. We also have partners in China, Western Europe, and India. And, we are looking to deploy our services in the rest of the theaters by year end.
ONUG: How have VeloCloud and the SD-WAN providers impacted the service provider MPLS offerings?
Uppal: The market has a need for multiplicity of choices and MPLS is one of them. With the addition of DSL, cable, LTE and Internet to the mix, MPLS becomes just one of the choices, and not the only choice as in the past. The rate of growth of MPLS could decrease, but it is not going away anytime soon. Service Providers will also move to offer a choice of WAN services.
ONUG: What do you see as the next steps for the SD-WAN segment, in terms of features and markets?
Uppal: The focus now is about how to simplify branch office connectivity, reduce hardware sprawl and boost price/performance. SD-WAN technology intuitively recognizes usage and applies the appropriate services; mobile SD-WAN will be the second wave, and SD-WAN for the Internet of Things will be the third wave.
ONUG: What challenges does VeloCloud face as it grows?
Uppal: As a young startup, product-market fit is the most important issue for us. Equally important is building a company culture that emphasizes “trust and learning fast.”