Vyatta Execs See Goldmine In Network Virtualization

The way Vyatta CEO Kelly Herrell sees it, the open-source networking vendor is at the center of a perfect storm of opportunity.

Enterprise acceptance of open-source solutions is not only better than ever, he suggested, but also trends like virtualization and cloud computing, profound in their ability to reshape the market, are helping customers move away from proprietary systems and toward open, scalable architectures better equipped to handle them.

"Our addressable market keeps growing," Herrell said in a Channelweb.com interview. "The market is growing vertically, but also horizontally, too. Whether you want to use Vyatta as a virtual machine or as part of your cloud infrastructure, you can. We're the only open networking operating system in the world that is basically hardware-agnostic and virtualization-agnostic. Everything from small edge routers and VPNs on up to data centers is pretty much a target for Vyatta now."

The vendor's channel has been growing in kind. According to Tom McCafferty, Vyatta's director of marketing, Vyatta has been adding between 20 and 25 partners a month for the past year.

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The difference now, Herrell and McCafferty said, is that Vyatta isn't so much reacting to partners interested in its networking platform than it is aggressively recruiting them -- specialty VARs, service providers, system integrators alike -- with a good channel story around network virtualization and cloud infrastructure supported on an open-source platform.

"Commercial adoption of Vyatta only really started two years ago, and part of what you're seeing now is the flywheel effect from those years of early market penetration," Herrell lsaid. "If you think about it, 'networking' and 'virtualization' were not used in the same sentence two years ago. 'Virtualization' and 'applications' were. Network virtualization is now becoming more and more of a standard topic."

Herrell's contention, as , is that the next era in the industry is one of software-based networking. Single-function devices will exit in favor of multi-function networking tools, managed services and cloud-based solutions will dominate, and data center efficiency is more necessary than ever.

"If you think of the layers, there's a section of networking, Layer 3 and up, that is beautifully addressed by a software solution," he said. "Routing, security ... that's all CPU-intensive, and that's the reason why we perform so well. Then you have WAN optimization and load balancing, and you're starting to see those and other networking applications become virtual machines."

Vyatta Ramps Up Channel Strategy

Vyatta hasn't had difficulty attracting partners in the past, Herrell said, because the open-source community is built on viral buzz and it doesn't take long for hot open-source products and platforms to get noticed. The change Vyatta has seen in the past year, however, is that new partner recruits are as much traditional networking shops with legacy Cisco and other practices as they are open-source aficionados.

Global systems integrators are a key expansion area, Herrell said. He wouldn't name any of Vyatta's newer system integrator partners, saying they were under nondisclosure agreement with several deals still pending, but many are those who "realize their practices need to include networking as part of the virtualization story."

"They may be a Cisco specialist up until they realize that Cisco doesn't have a virtualized operating system they sell," he said.

Both Herrell and McCafferty acknowledged that Vyatta channel partners and customers tend to learn best from each other. Vyatta actively encourages the use of Vyatta.org, a companion Website to the main company site that houses the Vyatta community forums, various downloads and documentation resources and social networking outreach.

Still, they said, the growing channel program requires fine-tuning. The company recently began to offer deal registration for its existing partners. Later this month it will launch a new channel program with a classification for service providers, cloud platform provides and MSPs -- "generally people that would deploying in a customer-facing scenario in high volume," McCafferty said.

As Vyatta continues to grow it will do so without Dave Roberts, its former vice president for strategy and marketing, who officially left the company last week.

Roberts could not be reached for comment following his departure, but Network World late last week reported Roberts is the new vice president of strategy and marketing for cloud platform provider and XaaS ("everything as a service") specialist ServiceMesh.

In an e-mail to Network World posted on the news site, Roberts said it was "time to move on" and that he's "pleased to see the company continue to gain customers and show the world that it doesn't need to buy overpriced, underperforming kit [sic] from Cisco."

Herrell told Channelweb.com that any channel concern over Roberts' exit is a "tempest in a teapot."

"Four years is a lifetime for some people in a startup," Herrell said. "He did a great job of helping us understand how to get into this market. He remains a friend of the company and he's in a new endeavor."