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Former Viptela Founder Launches SD-Edge Startup Graphiant, Taking Aim At Cisco

Gina Narcisi

‘In 2020, I was presenting the ultimate direction I wanted to take Viptela, and I’m hoping, to my good luck, Cisco doesn’t listen again,’ says Graphiant Founder and CEO Khalid Raza.

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Khalid Raza (Photo via LinkedIn)

Khalid Raza, former co-founder and CTO for Viptela and dubbed the “father” of SD-WAN, has started a new edge networking company that is taking aim at Cisco and other formidable SD-WAN providers.

Graphiant emerged from stealth mode on Thursday and is ready to deliver MPLS-level connectivity between the enterprise WAN, hybrid cloud, network edge, customers and partners. Its solution is delivered as a service through the Graphiant Network Edge, Raza, founder and CEO of Graphiant told CRN in an interview before the launch of his new company.

The San Jose, Calif.-based startup is solving a big networking problem that existing SD-WAN players, like Cisco, are “not listening to,” Raza said — increasingly distributed workloads and network complexity that is in turn creating more complexity and security issues for businesses.

“In 2020, I was presenting the ultimate direction I wanted to take Viptela, and I’m hoping, to my good luck, Cisco doesn’t listen again,” he told CRN.

 [Related: Gartner’s Magic Quadrant For WAN Edge Infrastructure 2021: HPE Joins Leader Circle Thanks To Silver Peak Buy ]

Viptela was acquired by Cisco in 2017 and Raza stayed on with Cisco after the deal closed until 2020 as a distinguished engineer. Before a stint at HP, Raza had previously served as a distinguished engineer for Cisco for more than 17 years before creating Viptela.

Every time there’s been a WAN transition, there’s been a technology driver. The move to MPLS for instance was driven by voice and data networks merging, Raza said. The need for SD-WAN emerged to support bandwidth-heavy applications, such as Office 365 and mobile video. Now, distributed workloads and users and increasingly complex networks are creating less predictability. The problem has “snuck up” on users, Raza said.

“Enterprises are trying to offer a service over an asset that they don’t control, so how do you build a deterministic network over an environment where things can change on a much more regular basis? How can we bring the reliability and privacy of MPLS and the cost and agility of SD-WAN?” he said.

There are two things that have become clear to Graphiant: the network must be private with an SLA, and it should be as a service, Raza said.

“My argument inside Cisco was not to sell bespoke licenses on a customer-by-customer basis. My whole argument is it‘s not cost-effective … there comes a time when automation stops working and you need to do protocol innovations. We tried to retrofit technology that was built for predictable topologies, into an unpredictable topology network. And this is where the innovation will come in to give you scale, cost effectiveness, and prioritize security and reliability.”

Graphiant’s platform eliminates the need to build bespoke networks between every resource, hybrid cloud, edge network, customer and partner. The technology instead connects each resource to the Graphiant Stateless Core, which handles all routing, and can be accessed via a portal. Traffic stays encrypted from edge to edge, the Core does not contain customer information of any kind, and SLA-grade performance is guaranteed, according to the company.

Global solution provider World Wide Technology (WWT) has been partnering with Graphiant in stealth mode. The solution will help remove the barrier of entry to SD-WAN that still exists for many businesses, according to Neil Anderson, area vice president, cloud and infrastructure solutions for WWT.

Part of Anderson’s job is to assess emerging technologies and startups. WWT was an early adopter of Viptela prior to the Cisco acquisition and still is to this day. When Raza and his team reached out to WWT, the two companies immediately began working together as WWT began evaluating Graphiant in stealth mode.

Graphiant’s technology is very unique in the SD-WAN space, Anderson said. “They’ve taken the learnings from the SD-WAN market and really thought really deeply about what the complexity is for most customers,” he said. “Most of the solutions are still built on SD-WAN as a foundation and they‘re trying to go after the market that way … being able to kind of do the similar things that you could do with SD-WAN, but not require such complexity to get there. That’s what really stood out about them to us.”

The company plans on doing all of its business through the channel.

Graphiant was founded in 2020 and has raised $33.5 million in Series A funding backed by Sequoia Capital, Two Bear Capital & Atlantic Bridge.

Learn More: SD-WAN
Gina Narcisi

Gina Narcisi is a senior editor covering the networking and telecom markets for CRN.com. Prior to joining CRN, she covered the networking, unified communications and cloud space for TechTarget. She can be reached at gnarcisi@thechannelcompany.com.

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