This featured interview with Pluribus Networks President & CEO, Kumar Srikantan, is a part of the 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.
President & CEO, Pluribus Networks
ONUG: What is the genesis of Pluribus Networks?
Srikantan: Pluribus was founded in 2010 to make networking a logical extension of computing at the architectural, programmable, and orchestration levels. At the same time, software-defined networking (SDN) as a concept was just starting to pique the network industry’s interest. The confluence of these market dynamics and early, emerging customer demands marks our genesis.
ONUG: Your website states that your forte is performance-oriented network virtualization for private and public cloud data centers. Can you elaborate on that?
Srikantan: For the first time in the industry, our software takes advantage of the architectural aspects of agility, automation, analytics orchestration, security, telemetry, visibility, dynamic resource management, virtualization etc. to solve the complexities of networking. Indeed, our software allows enterprise customers to dynamically create micro and macro network segments for specific applications on-the-fly, giving specific departments within enterprises complete visibility and control over their respective applications and operations.
Major glitches in the network can be isolated to the smallest element, and corrected in a fraction of a time needed earlier. And, our use of hardware boosts performance levels beyond other competitive market offerings. The Pluribus NetVisor network operating system runs on industry standard, merchant-silicon based ONIE-compatible and third-party off-the-shelf whitebox or britebox networking platforms, giving customers flexible choices based on their particular needs.
We essentially start where traditional networking stops.
ONUG: What is your product portfolio and how is it marketed?
Srikantan: We have been shipping our products since April 2014. Initially, we had our own “britebox” 10 Gigabit Ethernet and 40GE switches and appliances powered by NetVisor Operating System. We recently announced the NetVisor operating system as a software-only-option for powering the Dell’s Open Networking family of switches.
Our offering goes well beyond standard L2/L3 networking protocol stack capabilities. NetVisor enables additional capabilities such as the formation of a “fabric cluster” of multiple Broadcom or Intel Fulcrum based switches in a leaf-spine topology. This capability, built on top of the operating system, is offered as a “Fabric Automation & Analytics” package – which allows dozens of switches to be configured, managed and viewed as a single logical network along with unique visibility, and global “fabric-wide” services and control attributes without the need for a central controller in the network. This provides agility, management and network telemetry to aid development, deployment and performance of applications.
ONUG: What is your business model?
Srikantan: We have a highly flexible and hybrid business model that enables customers to scale without being tied to either hardware or software. For those customers that want a turnkey consumption and procurement model much like Cisco, we offer a total system solution with 24×7 support and services to go with it. Value-added resellers and channel partners are a key element of our partner-enabled distribution. Our strategic partner ecosystem of open networking solution allows DELL, Super Microsystems and others to offer software-defined services, such as fabric automation, virtualization, analytics and network segmentation capabilities on their own open networking family of network switches to deliver alternative to the likes of Cisco’s applications centric infrastructure (ACI) offering or Arista Networks’ CloudVision architecture.
ONUG: Who are your competitors in this space and how do you differentiate your portfolio and target clientele?
Srikantan: As mainstream IT looks to tackling the challenges associated with cloud transition, accelerated application delivery models, and security – the realization that traditional networking solution is simply adding complexity without addressing the key pain-points of agility, security, application delivery etc. is evident. This trend differentiates us, and presents us with an opportunity to target both the enterprise and cloud- provider markets.
ONUG: Pluribus has lately caught the media attention with its significant financing among SDN startups. Who are your primary investors and what does this level of financing indicate?
Srikantan: We raised more than $50 million in the most recent financing round earlier this year, and were oversubscribed. This brings our total funding to $95 million, making us one of the top-funded SDN startups. The last round was led by Temasek, the national investment fund of Singapore and a company much like Berkshire Hathaway of Asia Pac region. The round also had strategic investors, such as Ericsson which is one of the largest and leading infrastructure providers for the telco and service-provider markets. Our existing venture capitalists from Sand Hill Road include New Enterprise Associates, and Menlo Ventures. Jerry Yang with his AME Cloud Ventures is also a major investor and is on our board.
Every one of these investors as well as strategic partners see the disruptive market opportunity in the evolution of software-defined data center and the role of the network in this transition.
ONUG: Given this financing, a mature product line and global presence, what is next for Pluribus?
Srikantan: Our goal is to lead the transition to the software-defined data center.
ONUG: What challenges do the industry, and Pluribus face in the next three years of SDN evolution?
Srikantan: We have to empower network operations to be the change-agent for the enterprise as they can play a crucial role in advancing the software- defined data center transition. Over the last few years, it is clear that the server virtualization, storage, and security buying centers have all led the way in adopting virtualization and doing their part to address the key pain-points of cost, scale, agility and security while networking and networking buying center has remained the laggard in this journey. The NetOps buying center will become increasingly marginalized if they don’t embrace these transitions and become agents of change. Therein lays both the challenges and opportunities for the industry.
ONUG: What can Pluribus contribute to further ONUG’s goal of open solutions and interoperability?
Srikantan: Pluribus is trying to articulate a central message that with standardized architectures, components and Northbound APIs, it is possible to build next generation networks that are agile, secure and adaptable. Pluribus is also participating in several working groups tied to key business-relevant technology trends for the software-defined data center, such as network virtualization, application and network telemetry / analytics, and security.