Viptela taps former Cisco, Dell-EMC exec to lead SD-WAN charge

Software-Defined WAN vendor Viptela today announced industry veteran and former Cisco and Dell EMC executive Praveen Akkiraju will become its new CEO as the company looks to increase its presence in the rapidly-budding market.

praveen akkiraju  ceo  viptela1 Praveen Akkiraju

Praveen Akkiraju

Software-Defined WAN vendor Viptela today announced industry veteran and former Cisco and Dell EMC executive Praveen Akkiraju will become its new CEO as the company looks to increase its presence in the rapidly-budding market.

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“2017 will be the year of SD-WAN and we expect rapid adoption of the technology going forward,” Akkiraju said. “We are in an amazing time of enterprise transformation where traditional applications are being deconstructed and being rebuilt in the cloud. Traditional networks are amid the same kind of disruption and Viptela can lead that transformation.”

Leading such transformations are a significant portion of Akkiraju’s past. Most recently he was CEO of VCE, the once joint EMC/Cisco/VMware venture which has now been subsumed into Dell EMC. He is credited with helping VCE grow into a $2.1 billion converged infrastructure provider. Prior to VCE, he spent some 19 years at Cisco developing its routing platform business. In his last role, he was senior vice president and general manager of Cisco’s Enterprise Networking group, where he rebuilt the strategy and business for the multi-billion dollar Cisco ISR and ASR product portfolio, Viptela stated.

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One of the greatest challenges going forward is connecting users at the edge of the network, securely with the cloud, Akkiraju said. There is also a need to support a diversity of devices needing connectivity – everything from MPLS to LTE—to get to cloud services.  

Akkiraju noted that Viptela hosts 90% of its software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) customers in Amazon Web Services (AWS).

As for what’s to come in the SD-WAN arena in 2017, there’s no shortage of prognostications.

Competitor Versa wrote of SD-WAN: In 2017, we predict that not only will more service providers realize the financial benefits to adopting SD-WAN, but they will start layering software-defined security (SD-Security) on top as an add on to further increase revenues and differentiate their offering. SD-Security offers all the security features found in unified threat management (UTM) and next-generation firewall (NGFW) devices, such as firewall, malware protection, URL content filtering, intrusion prevention and more and turns them into virtual network functions (VNF) that only require a generic white box appliance at the branch site. This will further help providers get out of the low-margin business of selling proprietary appliance-based services and focus on generating more customer value and revenue through richer, higher margin software-based services.

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Cisco has its own SD-WAN predictions for 2017 including:

  • Flexible hosting options: Cloud applications are changing how branches are designed. Branches are becoming like smaller campus networks connecting to public clouds, co-location facilities and the data center. SD-WAN will need to be flexible enough to be hosted in each of these locations in both hardware and software (virtualized) form factors without compromising on performance or management simplicity.
  • Improved security capabilities: SD-WAN has primarily been about securing connectivity between locations using a secure overlay. However, connecting branches directly to the internet is critical for improving the performance of applications hosted in the cloud, but it can also expose your branch threats. Expect to see security become more integrated into branch platforms and complemented by cloud-based security and analytics for faster threat detection for web, SaaS and even encrypted traffic.
  • Virtualizing the branch: SD-WAN, Next Generation Firewall and WAN Optimization might still be required in the branch but enterprises want more flexibility to deploy and consume network functions as needed rather than all at once in a single platform. Expect to see more virtualization of traditional, physical network functions in the branch combined with broader automation capabilities that will reduce deployment time and increase agility.
  • Increased managed service offerings: The opportunity to provide enterprises with additional services like security, monitoring and application optimization, beyond basic connectivity is a compelling value proposition of SD-WAN for providers. Expect to see more service providers offer SD-WAN as a managed service as well as resellers, systems integrators and IT services companies who are looking to expand their service offerings by giving enterprises more choice.

In December Gartner wrote that spending on SD-WAN products will rise from $129 million in 2016 to $1.24 billion in 2020. “While WAN architectures and technologies tend to evolve at a very slow pace — perhaps a new generation every 10 to 15 years — the disruptions caused by the transformation to digital business models are driving adoption of SD-WAN at a pace that is unheard of in wide-area networking,” Gartner wrote.

Akkiraju replaces Amir Khan, Viptela's co-founder and current CEO, who will stay on as president and a board member. The company to date has received about $110 million in funding from primary investor Sequoia Capital, Redline Capital and Northgate Capital.

Viptela competes most closely with a band of fellow startups including VeloCloud, CloudGenix, Cybera, Versa and Talari as well as established venders such as Cisco, Riverbed Technology, Silver Peak and Citrix.

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