CloudGenix CEO Blasts Cisco And Riverbed's SD-WAN Solution; Says WAN Optimization Market Is 'Dead'

Kumar Sounds Off On Cisco, Riverbed, SD-WAN Market

Cisco and Riverbed's attempts at creating innovative and channel-friendly SD-WAN solutions fail in comparison to startup CloudGenix, according to Kumar Ramachandran, CEO of CloudGenix and a former top engineer at Cisco.

"The reason why Cisco Gold partners are flocking to us is because they find when they go to their customers and try to deploy [Cisco's SD-WAN solution] IWAN, it's very complex and often times are in danger in losing the customers' trust," said Ramachandran, in an interview with CRN. "What CloudGenix has done for the first time in 30 to 40 years of the networking industry, is we eliminated the need for routing protocols and routers."

Ramachandran also talks about the 'CloudGenix Versus Cisco Challenge' as well as why Riverbed acquiring Ocedo wasn't a smart SD-WAN decision. "We have a number of customers that when they deploy CloudGenix, part of the value proposition is they hit the 'Kill Button' on their Riverbed devices," he said.

How does CloudGenix's SD-WAN solution stack up against Cisco's IWAN and other SD-WAN startups solution?

Cisco and the other players, they are characterized by trying to make the router better. Cisco's ISR, which I helped build, was a great router 13 years ago when people were trying to deliver applications over MPLS links from the data center. The world has completely changed and applications are being deliver from a combination of cloud, SaaS environments, data centers, over Internet IP and MPLS. The Cisco router and the routing-based approach -- it's just terrible for this environment.

Whether it's Cisco or any of these startups, they all have taken the router approach and tried to make the routing protocols better. What CloudGenix has done in the first time in 30 to 40 years of the networking industry, is we eliminated the need for routing protocols and routers.

So how did CloudGenix take the need for routers out of the equation?

The way we've done it is building out a true centralized control plane that completely eliminates the need for routing protocols. So all the things like the need to spend 10 years becoming a CCIE, learning a stack of routing protocols and the deployment that typically takes months to plan, design and implement – all of that goes away.

As we eliminated the need for routing protocols. We said, 'What can we give the customers that is even more powerful?' Well we can give them an application-defined fabric that allows you to specify for any application or groups of applications, 'What is my policy?' And the policy has three properties: performance, security and a compliance property.

Being able to provide that kind of model that enforces application SLA policies instead of relying on routing protocols and the classic router-based model, that is the very first thing that we do completely differently.

What's another big differentiator with CloudGenix versus Cisco and other SD-WAN vendors?

We provide native visibility into your application performance, network performance and it doesn't matter if it's a cloud application or if it's a data center application and you don't need additional hardware or software.

In the case of Cisco, you have to deploy Cisco Prime, LiveAction and three other tools to get the visibly required to manage the network. In our case, it comes natively embedded in the product. The reason we're able to do that is because of the application-based approach that we have.

How big of an issue is Cisco's IWAN complexity and do you think it hurts channel partners?

We've signed up another 50 channel partners in the past few months and at least 50 percent of those are Cisco Gold partners. The reason why Cisco Gold partners are flocking to us is because they find when they go to their customers and try to deploy IWAN, it's very complex and often times are in danger in losing the customers' trust because of the complexity and the fact that it doesn't deliver on its promise. The channels biggest thing is the trust of their customer.

Give us an example of how a customer eliminated all its routers using CloudGenix?

One of our retails went completely live [this week] and eliminated all routers at its retail locations. What they have is a server running a virtualized [solution] of CloudGenix. In that particular case, they also use a virtualized [solution] from Palo Alto Networks and they enforce microsegmentation all the way to the data center to the branch using us, Palo Alto and VMware NSX. You can combine best-of-breed solutions on a x86 hardware. With Cisco, it's just way too complex. It huge amount of effort to put it all together.

We heard you caused somewhat of a ruckus during Cisco Live conference in July with a 'Cisco IWAN versus CloudGenix' competition. Can you elaborate?

At Cisco Live, we rented out a restaurant inside Mandalay Bay which is where the conference was … Remember the Pepsi versus Coke challenge in the late 1980s, early 1990s where you could do a blind taste test and say which one you liked more? And it turned out more people liked Pepsi despite Coke being the 800-pound gorilla at the time … We set up a station that had Cisco IWAN and all its components and a CloudGenix station.

About 300 people came. The bulk of them CCIE, experts in networking and 30 Cisco employees showed up as well and I welcomed them.

The audience was invited to do three activities. One: set up a simple WAN – three branches, two data centers. Two: To set up a policy that says, 'For any cloud-based applications – like Office 365, Salesforce, Box, you name it – I'm going to allow my traffic to go direct to the cloud from that remote office with performance-based load balancing across all available paths. And three: Monitor and troubleshoot my network in the case of performance issues.

So what happened at the Cisco station?

On the Cisco station, it took an hour and a half for the first person, who was a CCIE expert, to set up a simple WAN and a couple data center and branches. They could not set up a policy that allows an application to go directly to the cloud because you cannot do that in a router base system. And to get the troubling and visibility, they had to install three tools, obtain the licenses for each and it was still missing a bunch of information.

And what about at the CloudGenix station?

In the CloudGenix work station, we had 15 people sequentially complete all three activates in an hour and these are people who have never seen CloudGenix before.

The fastest time was 4 minutes and 28 seconds. That's the power of the simplicity by eliminating routing protocols and provide a fabric -- it became a very compelling event … We're taking it on the road now.

You're doing a Cisco versus ClouGenix SD-WAN roadshow?

Yes. It's a now roadshow called the 'iWANT CloudGenix Challenge' as a little play on Cisco IWAN.

Now we have a full-blown roadshow in every city. Tons of partners are there. Press and analysts are covering it. It's a very good public way to demonstrate that, 'Hey let's go past all the vendor's lines. Here's how powerful the CloudGenix approach and solution is.'

With the growing SD-WAN market, where does that leave WAN optimization?

I'm very familiar with the WAN optimization market -- I helped build it, helped defined it.

The reality is that the WAN optimization market is a dead if not dying market. The reason is because the applications have gotten smarter.

What exactly led to the demise of WAN optimization?

The rise of Software as a Service … Microsoft aggressively moving everyone to the cloud, while the performance and optimization techniques have nothing to do with traditional WAN optimization and the fact that a lot of network level optimizations are commodity and your de-duplication doesn't work on encrypted traffic, which is now the bulk of the traffic. WAN optimization is dead and dying.

That's the reason why Riverbed, which was public then taken private, became private because the challenges of trying to grow revenue in a shrinking market.

Speaking of Riverbed, how do you feel about them entering the SD-WAN market?

We have a number of customers that when they deploy CloudGenix, part of the value proposition is they hit the 'Kill Button' on their Riverbed devices.

They bought this company called Ocedo based in Germany, which makes a hardware solution for the WAN that's been rebranded as SD-WAN. So if you're an existing Riverbed customer, you have zero advantage in going to Ocedo because it's a different box, a different piece of hardware and when you evaluate Cisco versus Ocedo -- Cisco will probably win out on the list of features. There is no fundamental advantage they're delivering.

What should Riverbed have done to better enter the market, in your opinion?

Some of the people who founded and built Riverbed are on my advisory board.

It would have been great if Riverbed built SD-WAN natively on the Riverbed box. If they have been able to do that, that might have been an interesting offer … But they're pretty much going to their customers and asking for a forklift upgrade. So I don't think that will last.

Where do you see the SD-WAN market in two or three years?

The early players like us who have tremendous market traction and the right product and solution – yes, there is always people interested in trying to obtain this kind of technology and products – but we look at this as a very large opportunity. The indicators for us is the incoming customer interest, the growth of our company and candidly, just the degree of channel interest.

What is going to set CloudGenix apart from Cisco in the SD-WAN market?

We have truly transformed from hardware to software. Cisco still sells the hardware router. It's proprietary hardware. It has a five- to seven-year refresh system. Every two years x86 power exponentially goes up … And that power is something we're able to deliver to the customer.

What is CloudGenix's growth rate in terms of revenues year over year?

We can't give our exact figures, but it's in the triple digits. We're in an exploding market at this stage, granted there's a lot of small numbers because it's in the early stages in the market across the board, but right now the growth percentage is in the triple digits.