Cloud Services

Avi Networks Takes ADCs to the Cloud

Avi Networks is betting traditional ADCs (application delivery controllers) don't cut it in today's cloud, mobile world -- and that they have the answer.

Traditional ADCs are designed for a world where users worked on tethered PCs on infrastructure owned by the company. Traditional ADCs worked well in that environment. But now, users rely on mobile devices accessing applications over the cloud. And traditional ADCs break down, Avi Networks says.

Avi's target customers are looking to build self-service elastic services on private clouds. Avi serves both large enterprises with hybrid clouds as well as cloud service providers, and the company is also talking to carriers.

"They're trying to build a whole new stack so they can provide services for their users -- like an Amazon," says Avi CEO and co-founder Umesh Mahajan. The characteristics of this new infrastructure are that it uses a software-defined data center approach, more focused on automation, agility, elasticity, and self-service. It's a more cloud-like environment than traditional networks, and requires a new kind of ADC to support it.

Traditional ADCs uses an appliance model, where the control plane, data plane and management are in a single box. Even a virtualized, traditional ADC just takes all that software and puts it in a virtual machine, says Mahajan.

Avi makes ADC software that runs on x86 servers on the customer premises, for the cloud infrastructure environment.

Avi uses an SDN approach to ADCs, separating the software stack into components, while also integrating analytics and visibility tools that measure network performance, security, and user experience, Mahajan says.

The Avi model uses a single logical controller and distributed service engines to manage the data plane. Another difference for Avi is that its technology integrates analytics and visibility tools into its product.

"We are the first true SDN in the ADC space," says Avi marketing VP Dhritiman Dasgupta. "Everybody else SDN-rinses their marketing collateral. We are the only ones able to separate the control plane from the data plane."

"We're also the world's first analytics-driven application delivery," Dasgupta says. "The solutions out there are doing application delivery with blindfolds on because they have no idea of the user, the infrastructure, or the applications scale." The Avi ADC collects information on application performance and adapts application availability to improve user experience.

"We can tell the operational team in a proactive fashion when things are not going well," Mahajan says. Avi measures the health, security, and user experience on the network, and can automatically make adjustments to optimize operations. "We can scale out services if the load increases, or scale down if there is low load."

Another differentiator is pricing: Rather than requiring customers to pay upfront, Avi uses a consumption-based model, Dasgupta says. That eliminates the need for network operators to invest large amounts upfront for peak capacity that they may not need for day-to-day operations.

Avi's Cloud Application Delivery Platform (CADP), announced in December, is based on the company's Hyperscale Distributed Resource Architecture (HYDRA). (See Avi Networks Launches Cloud Application Delivery.)

Avi explains its approach here:

Avi says its approach is similar to the elastic networks used by Facebook in its Autoscale technology, and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) Andromeda.

Facebook's Autoscale is traffic management technology designed to reduce power consumption 10-15%. It replaces traditional, round-robin load-balancing, which is inefficient because servers running at low-level loads use power more inefficiently than idle servers or servers running at moderate or greater loads. Autoscale is designed to optimize workloads so that servers are either idling, or running at medium capacity, and avoid having servers run at low capacity. (See Facebook Slashes Data Center Power Consumption.)

Andromeda is Google's own SDN architecture, which the company uses in its data centers. It orchestrates provisioning, configuring and managing virtual networks, and in-network packet processing. (See Google's Andromeda Strain Is Spreading.)

Andromeda is designed to provide a global cloud infrastructure that gives customers the security and performance of local private networks. (See Google's Andromeda Relieves Cloud Strain.)

Avi was founded in 2012, and received a $33 million investment in December, which it's investing in sales and marketing.

The company recently added Marc Anderson, head of sales of firewall vendor Palo Alto Networks Inc. , to its board. Anderson is formerly of ADC vendor F5 Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: FFIV), a competitor to Avi. Avi sees security -- where Palo Alto Networks specializes -- and load-balancing ADCs to be complementary.

For 2015, Avi is looking to land big enterprise and cloud provider customers, as well as partner with big names including VMware Inc. (NYSE: VMW), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), and well-known stack companies such as Mirantis Inc. and Red Hat Inc. (NYSE: RHT), on technology, co-marketing and joint sales, Mahajan says.

Avi is "a very new and young player in the ADC market," says Gartner Inc. analyst Andrew Lerner. By building application performance management (APM) capabilities into the ADC, they've simplified managing ADC instances over different infrastructures.

Primary competitors are ADC vendors including F5, Citrix Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CTXS), Radware Ltd. (Nasdaq: RDWR), A10 Networks Inc. , and KEMP Technologies Inc. , as well as open source solutions such as HAproxy, as they target both the DevOps/cloud buyer as well as traditional infrastructure and networking buyers, Lerner says.

He adds:

Being so young, they don't have a lot of market traction yet, and probably have less than a dozen paying customers. That said, they are in production and trials in some very large and well-known enterprises. At this point, their product does lack some enterprise feature capabilities particularly when compared to the established ADC players.

Want to know more about SDN? Visit Light Reading's SDN technology content channel.

Established ADC vendors provide template and deployment wizards for many enterprise apps, and advanced functionality such as Web Application Firewall, which Avi lacks, Lerner says.

Partnerships will give Avi a boost. A recent partnership with Cisco, including Avi in Cisco's Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) ecosystem, is unusual for a company as new as Avi, Lerner says. "This is great for increasing their awareness and gives them instant credibility to have their name associated with a trusted vendor like Cisco, and it likely indicates senior-level relationships with Cisco." Indeed, Avi's management team are ex-Cisco executives.

On Tuesday, Avi will announce a partnership with VMware Inc. (NYSE: VMW), certifying Avi's product as compatible with VMware's vCloud Air.

— Mitch Wagner, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profileFollow me on Facebook, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading. Got a tip about SDN or NFV? Send it to [email protected]

Mitch Wagner 2/3/2015 | 11:33:35 AM
HYDRA Regarding the Hyperscale Distributed Resource Architecture -- HYDRA -- I wonder which came first, the acronym or the product? And how many beers were involved in thinking of the acronym? And whether Avi realizes HYDRA is also the name of a fictional organization of villains in Marvel Comics?
Sign In