Exactly two years ago today, Alcatel-Lucent launched SDN spin-up Nuage Networks to “deliver on the true promise of the cloud.” SDxCentral caught up with Nuage CEO Sunil Khandekar to talk about how customer buying patterns have shifted in that time, market attitudes toward network virtualization, why the company expanded into providing branch office services, and specifically, the significant momentum Nuage Networks has achieved in such a short period of time.
SDxCentral: Congratulations on your second anniversary! It seems like Nuage Networks had a good 2014 in terms of customer wins, partnerships, and new products. Can you provide some insight into the momentum you’re seeing?
Khandekar: Sure. Considering 2014 was our first full year in the market, we did quite well. We closed the year with 16 customer wins and more than 60 pilot deployments in both the enterprise and the cloud service provider (CSP) markets across all three theaters: EMEA, NA, and APAC.
The enterprise wins are truly definitional for couple of key reasons. First, we prevailed over competitors despite their strong incumbency. Second, and more importantly, these wins signaled enterprises’ desire to select best-of-breed technology for their SDN layer separate from the network infrastructure and separate from their hypervisor layer. This is a big change in the buying pattern we are seeing, and it’s largely attributable to the SDN phenomenon and the discussions surrounding it.
As for the CSPs, they are interested in building as good or better offers than AWS, and that is what we are helping them with in their local markets. We now have wins in EMEA, NA, and APAC, and the momentum continues.
Both customer segments have different needs and environments based on how they started the virtualization journey and how they plan to evolve based on business priorities. The important thing is to provide customers an extensible platform that not only allows them to take advantage of the automation and virtualization benefits in their current setup, but also extend that seamlessly as they evolve and adopt new technologies. This has been the key to customers selecting us.
We offer an open, standards-based platform with a declarative policy engine that is independent of orchestration platform, the network infrastructure, and the hypervisor technology. Nuage Networks supports all workloads: virtual, bare-metal, and containers. We continue to expand our ecosystem as we get input from our customers, and as we on-board new partners, we produce reference designs and solutions that our customers can benefit from.
Who are your customers today, and what are they buying from you? What use cases are driving most of your POCs and sales?
Khandekar: Enterprises and cloud service providers alike are deploying our Nuage Networks Virtualized Services Platform (VSP) for virtualizing and automating private and public cloud infrastructures with our declarative policy framework.
We see a variety of use cases across both customer segments. In enterprises, we see both physical-to-virtual migration, or virtual (ESXi)-to-virtual (KVM) migration. Enterprise use cases are about multi-datacenter, multi-hypervisor connectivity; connectivity to VPN and between private and public cloud using the same policy framework; and security and compliance.
In all cases, it is about error-free, zero-touch configuration that our declarative policy framework makes possible. Finally, it is about being able to start small but know that the solution will scale effortlessly as the needs grow.
Would you say network virtualization is now mainstream?
Khandekar: For us, network virtualization has never been a new concept. In fact, network virtualization has always been mainstream in the WAN. VPNs delivered on a common IP/MPLS substrate have been around for more than a decade, and we were involved in those build outs.
In datacenters, the network had not evolved much until server virtualization (leading to VM sprawl) coupled with multitenancy-mandated network virtualization. Then it became essential for datacenters to have the ability to group and connect virtual, bare-metal, or container workloads together to allow for common policies to be implemented collectivity on the group. The grouping of workloads could be based on the users, applications, or both.
To be sure, network virtualization and network automation are two very different things. We relied on our experience to build a robust network virtualization solution but focused lot of effort on building a declarative policy framework that completely automated network provisioning – something that had been done for mobile devices but was certainly not available for wireline networks until we came along.
Khandekar: Customers are interested in building best-of-breed private and public cloud with open- and standards-based technologies. They are not interested in getting locked in, which limits their flexibility and choice. As a result we see heavy interest in the OpenStack and KVM ecosystem. And while there is an installed base of ESXi workloads, both large enterprise customers and CSPs ask about migrating or supporting those workloads simultaneously with workloads in the KVM or XEN environment. We also see interest in CloudStack, especially from customers in Asia. In fact, we recently announced our deployment with China Telecom (CTCC), which is CloudStack-based.
Many in the industry were surprised by your expansion into the branch office with your announcement of Virtualized Network Services (VNS). Why did you decide to do that? And when did you make that investment?
Khandekar: Right from the get-go we had plans to address both the datacenter and the branch with our SDN framework for virtualization and automation of networks. In fact, we signaled our intention when we launched Nuage in April 2013, indicating that SDN was for datacenter and beyond.
To us, branch network is the natural area to apply the same innovation that we brought to the datacenter. Like the datacenter, the branch network architectures had stood still for over two decades. The classic hub-and-spoke branch architectures with the proprietary and over-priced branch routers are archaic and simply out of step with the demands of users and the applications that they consume.
We also observed that in the cloud-consumption world, fixing the datacenter network helps the utilization and availability of the application, but it doesn’t address the end users of the application that connect over the wide area network. Applying the same declarative policy framework and using an open, cost-effective, x86-based device as the branch router completely changes the dynamics of network connectivity. It now becomes automated and fully self-service. Virtualized Network Services (VNS), which we announced last fall, is the commercialization of this idea.
The cloud/datacenter offering and our branch VNS both share our policy and control plane implementations. However, we instantiate different data plane implementations based on whether we are dealing with a cloud datacenter or a branch network.
Both offerings can be implemented separately, but when deployed together they can provide a completely seamless network environment from the branch to the private or public cloud that offers full flexibility in deploying policies, service chaining, or collecting analytics on demand as needed through a self-service portal.
Our branch offering is built to allow enterprises to manage their own, but given its multi-tenanted architecture, service providers can use it to offer retail or wholesale services.
How is the open CPE concept being received?
Khandekar: The response from the customers has been superb.
Like the datacenter networks, the branch VPN network architectures had stood still for the last two decades. Building highly automated private and public clouds is going only half the distance because the users that access the applications hosted in those clouds are on the side of the WAN that is not automated, has an out-of-date hub-and-spoke architecture, and uses a proprietary branch router that is highly limited in its capability.
With our VNS offer we bring branch networking to the cloud era with full automation, programmability, service chaining, and analytics using an open x86 CPE rather than a closed proprietary branch device. We are the only one in the market that offers SDN capabilities for the datacenter and the branch through a declarative policy framework.
What can we expect from Nuage Networks in 2015? Any other cool tricks like VNS up your sleeves?
Khandekar: In the end, it is about understanding and solving customer problems in a meaningful way without locking them in. VNS is a great example of that. Likewise, while others were and are still talking about containers, we are already supporting them and have done so since last fall.
Having an extensible architecture makes it easier for us to add functionality. We have lots to offer now and in the future. Stay tuned.
Thanks for joining us today, and congratulations again on your second anniversary.
Khandekar: Thank you. It was a pleasure.