SDN Startup Viptela Emerges From Stealth, Looks To Give WAN A 'Shot In The Arm'

Viptela, one of several software-defined networking startups to sprout up over the past year, came out of stealth mode Monday with a new architecture it says delivers a long overdue change to the way enterprises deploy and manage their wide area networks (WANs).

"One thing was very clear," said Ramesh Prabagaran, vice president of products at Viptela, of the startup's early conversations with Fortune 500 customers. "And that was that the WAN, as it is today, is largely lacking from a capability standpoint and also from an agility standpoint."

Prabagaran said San Jose, Calif.-based Viptela, which in December closed a $33 million funding round from Sequoia Capital, aims to give legacy WAN infrastructures a "shot in the arm," making them more affordable, more agile and less complex to manage.

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The way to do that, Prabagaran explained, is through Viptela's new Secure Extensible Network (SEN). Generally available this week after nearly two years in the making, SEN is a software-based solution that Viptela said is the first of its kind to integrate routing, network security and segmentation policy into a single solution, rather than requiring enterprises to buy a point solution to handle each of those needs.

SEN's IP fabric, Prabagaran said, can be used on top of any underlying transport network, including MPLS, Broadband Internet, Metro-Ethernet or LTE. It also provides what Viptela calls "high-scale encryption," or the ability to automatically secure network traffic across thousands of global locations.

"It gives enterprises the ability to extend their secure perimeter to anywhere in the network," said Prabagaran. "It could be to the branch, the data center, the campus, the public cloud, and so forth."

Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst at ZK Research, said Viptela's SEN is a next-generation alternative to the legacy "hub-and-spoke" WAN models, where all branch traffic was directed over the same "spoke," or connection, to be fed into a central data center.

"The WAN of 20 years ago was fine for 20 years ago because most of your traffic was client-and-server-based," Kerravala said. "Today, with cloud computing, traffic patterns are much different."

"What [Viptela] is trying to do is move us more to this concept of a hybrid WAN, where some traffic needs to be on a corporate network, but some has to be direct to the cloud, or, in some cases, traffic might be better served going over Broadband Internet or over a private network," Kerravala continued. "This gives [enterprises] the ability to combine these things together to create the best possible WAN for a company."

Viptela's SEN is comprised of three components: vEdge virtual routers, a vSmart Controller virtual appliance and vManage, a network management system for the automatic configuration, management and monitoring of SEN.

Prabagaran said Viptela has completed proof of concepts with several large enterprise customers, and that, in those instances, SEN has driven cost savings of between 50 percent and 80 percent.

The company's executive team includes networking veterans from industry incumbents and startups alike. At the helm is Viptela CEO Amir Khan, who previously headed up product management for Juniper Networks' MX series routers. Viptela Co-Founder and CTO Khalid Raza had a 17-year run as one of Cisco Systems' most distinguished engineers, while Viptela's Vice President of Systems Engineering Pepe Garcia previously oversaw product management for Nicira, the SDN startup scooped up by VMware in 2012.

Viptela's technology, Kerravala noted, is similar to that of CloudGenix, another WAN-focused startup to emerge from stealth earlier this month. Much like Viptela, CloudGenix aims to give organizations more flexibility with their WANs, allowing them to pick and choose which types of applications traverse which type of network connection.

"I think if CloudGenix grows at 100 percent next year, Viptela should be delighted," Kerravala said. "It means the whole market is going to grow. It's not really about those guys battling each other. It's really about changing the conventional thought process that there's a better way to build a WAN. So, really, the status quo is their biggest competitor."