Big Interview

Q&A with Ashwath Nagaraj, founder and CTO of Aryaka

Ashwath Nagaraj - Aryaka NEW.jpg

Ahead of the launch of WAN Sydney, Capacity speaks to Ashwath Nagaraj, founder and CTO of Aryaka, about the state of the WAN market and the growing demand from enterprises.

What is the biggest driver of growing cloud adoption?
There are so many drivers to cloud adoption that it’s hard to pick one. I see application “outsourcing” as a big driver for the cloud. MS Exchange is a good example. Moving to O365 is a consolidation of the MS office suite, eliminating enterprise infrastructure, and on-prem expertise and management. It is aligned with digitisation efforts that most enterprises are undertaking and cloud becomes both a better operational model as well as a way to get increased agility.

What are the biggest trends in the WAN market?
Here again, while there are several major trends like moving from rigid MPLS towards a more flexible SD-WAN architecture, consolidation of the edge, etc., there is a major underlying trend towards managed services.

Enterprises migrating to cloud are doing so with the intent of reducing the need to manage applications themselves. The same underlying need drives the trend we see in the WAN market. Enterprises (small and medium today, but trending in the direction where large companies are going to do this soon as well) do not want to increase the complexity of the WAN edge, and they do not want to increase the level of expertise they need to operate the WAN. Even though the SD-WAN solution is going to reduce the cost of the WAN, the cost operating the network is an equally important consideration.

So a major trend we see is an accelerating move from a DIY WAN to a provider-managed WAN.

We’re also seeing an emphasis on end-user experience and having an integrated stack that delivers on that experience without being a heterogeneous patchwork is becoming important. It has direct implications into manageability, visibility and automation at scale.

How are the growing needs of enterprise customers impacting requirements for SD-WAN
SD-WAN comes in many flavours. Some address the SMB market requirements – where the internet is an adequate WAN. This space is pretty well covered.

Others are targeted more at the mid- and large enterprises, who need to retain MPLS quality while moving to a more agile network. As these enterprises move towards SD-WAN, they are driving a need for much higher bandwidths and scales. In general, enterprise customers are subscribing to cloud models and would like the WAN to follow a similar as-a-service consumption approach.

Aryaka was recently selected by Microsoft as one of the first partners for its new Microsoft Azure Networking Managed Services Provider Program – what was the significance of this announcement and how is that partnership progressing?
We have been working with Microsoft for a while on supporting Azure Virtual WAN as a managed service within our portfolio. This is again aligned with the customers’ trends to move to a managed WAN model. Being able to jointly address the managed Azure networking program as a joint launch partner for Microsoft was an important milestone for both of us.

The solution is aligned with Aryaka’s current offering of ExpressRoute connectivity into the Azure for the performance-sensitive mid-enterprise. But with smaller companies, there is a need for a cost-effective but scalable access over the internet. This is what Azure Virtual WAN provides. However, the target customer is someone who has already moved all the complexity in application management from on-prem to the cloud, so this connectivity needs to be offered in a way that these customers can consume them easily – i.e. someone who abstracts them from the complexities of managing edge routers, IPSEC, etc., Aryaka wraps the offering to the customer in a way they can consume it easily, while allowing an easy upgrade of select locations to Azure connectivity over a high performance private network.

Customer Interest has been picking up and we are very excited by the growth we expect over the next year. 

How is the adoption of hybrid cloud environments impacting the use and development of SD-WAN?
Smaller and mid-size businesses tend to adopt a single cloud model, with no private DCs. But as the bigger enterprises evaluate and transition to the cloud, a hybrid cloud model is starting to be more relevant. These customers maintain their own private clouds, as well as move some applications to multiple cloud platforms for redundancy and business continuity.

As a multi-cloud solution from day one, our solution fits perfectly for a customer who needs a hybrid cloud environment. As far as the development of SD-WAN is concerned, we see this increasingly becoming the norm rather than the exception.

Aryaka’s Smart Connect solution was recently named as one of Capacity’s top five cloud products for its ability to support customers move from legacy network architectures to cloud-ready ones, what are the key challenges moving from legacy to cloud and how is Smart Connect mitigating these risks?
For customers who already have internet connectivity at their sites, Aryaka’s SmartConnect enables a very quick transition to SD-WAN. We have fully transitioned customers with 200+ sites in under 3 months. Our agility is often a pleasant surprise to many of our customers, who really don’t expect cloud-like agility in the WAN.

Surprisingly, the challenges for transitioning the network actually lie in the mundane areas, procurement of internet services at all the locations, and managing the logistics of the transition. However, Aryaka offers the procurement of the last mile as a service also – this will enable faster and better coordinated move. It also gives our customers peace of mind, knowing that we’re taking care of end-to-end connectivity between the first mile, mid-mile and last mile with full ownership of SLAs and visibility. It offloads complexity for them and allows them to focus on business transformation initiatives.

Another key area that customers looking to transition need to address is their security posture. With a move from MPLS to internet, firewalls are going to be needed in every location, especially when the customer wants a local internet breakout. There are two approaches here – a perimeter firewall with deeper internet security in the cloud, or a UTM solution on premise. SmartConnect enables adoption of either solution seamlessly.

What is the roadmap for Aryaka in the foreseeable – what strategic areas of development is the company focusing on?

Tighter integration with security products is a key strategic area for Aryaka. Convergence of the edge, but fully managed by Aryaka, is another important area of focus. We will also be keeping pace with 4G/5G developments as they evolve.

We’re seeing increasing value in AI and ML capabilities, so AI/ML based predictive analytics will be key. AI/ML is a means for us to provide the customer with actionable information from their data. Areas covered include predictive fault detection, trend analysis, etc., as well as detection of anomalies in the network. 

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