Apstra this week brought on former Cisco and VeloCloud executive Michael Wood to fill a newly created chief marketing post at the company in a move to accelerate intent-based networking.
The startup, founded in 2014, is a pioneer in intent-based networking. This allows a network operator to state a business intent for the network and then use software to automatically implement this intent take corrective actions if needed. It’s an emerging data center technology — Gartner estimated fewer than 35 full deployments as of early 2018. But it’s been gaining traction with vendors including Cisco and Juniper jumping on the intent-based networking bandwagon.
Still, it’s a tough sell for risk-adverse network buyers, says Gartner analyst Andrew Lerner.
“Intent is essentially a new paradigm for how you manage a network, and new paradigms don’t go over particularly well in networking,” Lerner said. “Network buyers prefer moderate, incremental change. Apstra is a new vendor and they are doing a new thing.”
In other words, as the new guy tasked with scaling product management and marketing, Wood’s got his work cut out for him. He says he’s not fazed by this challenge — or by heavyweights like Cisco entering the sector.
“I love to have competition and it would be great to have more,” Wood said. “I genuinely believe that intent-based networking will become the standard for data center operating systems. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and the fact that other vendors have begun talking about intent-based networking is an example of its high value to IT.”
To Wood’s point about imitation, Apstra CEO and founder Mansour Karam added: “We certainly saw that when Cisco embraced intent-based networking.”
Wood has three-decades worth of experience in engineering and product marketing roles, and much of that centers around emerging technologies.
‘Marketing Leader in a Hot Market’
Prior to Apstra, Wood was vice president of worldwide marketing at VeloCloud, which was scooped up by VMware last year. Before VMware and VeloCloud, he was at Akamai, Cisco, and Stratacom (acquired by Cisco).
Apstra’s hoping Wood can work the same magic he did for SD-WAN and VeloCloud on intent-based networking and Apstra. Lerner says Wood is up to the task.
“Mike Wood has a strong track record in emerging technology markets and a very strong track record with VeloCloud,” Lerner said, noting that three SD-WAN startups emerged from stealth in Silicon Valley over a 10-week period in 2012. They were Viptela, which Cisco acquired, CloudGenix, and VeloCloud.
VeloCloud’s technology, which has been folded into VMware’s NSX SD-WAN, leads the market in terms of revenue and customer deployments, Lerner said.
“At the very least the marketing strategy set out by Mike Wood helped to achieve that point. He was the marketing leader in a hot market and he took VeloCloud to be the leader by revenue and paying customers. You can’t do that if you have bad marketing,” Lerner added.
Data Center Disruptor
Wood says Apstra’s technology “looks like the next major disruptor in the data center space,” and that’s one of the reasons why he joined the team.
“One of the things that has really drawn me in was this idea of markets and busiensses that are creating a disruption,” Wood said. “I had the opportunity to be able to participate with that in VoIP at Cisco and SD-WAN with VeloCloud — that was a massively disruptive business. And I saw Apstra was doing something incredibly innovative and facilitating greater disruption in the data center.”
Data centers are becoming increasingly complex, and that complexity means that enterprises aren’t able to enjoy the promised cost and technology benefits of using commodity hardware. Apstra’s intent-based networking addresses both of these issues, Wood said. It supports multivendor infrastructure and automates network operations, thus simplifying management and reducing OpEx.
“It’s really giving superpowers to the data center IT teams,” Wood said.