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Viptela cofounders secure $30M for multicloud networking startupViptela cofounders secure $30M for multicloud networking startup

The Khan brothers are launching the new startup Alkira, which they claim delivers the first on-demand, multicloud network that can be deployed in under an hour.

Kelsey Ziser

April 15, 2020

5 Min Read
Viptela cofounders secure $30M for multicloud networking startup

Viptela co-founders Amir and Atif Khan are making waves in the multicloud networking space with a new business venture backed by $30 million in funding. The Khan brothers are launching the new startup Alkira, which they claim delivers the first on-demand, multicloud network that can be deployed in under an hour.

"Alkira is pursuing the interesting goal of building an entirely virtualized distributed router," says Scott Raynovich, founder and principal analyst for Futuriom. "Given the rise in challenges of managing routing across multiple clouds, this is very exciting. The Khan brothers have a great track record as entrepreneurs and engineers, so I’m sure they will build an impressive product."

Alkira is essentially delivering a virtualized, multicloud router, says Raynovich, which addresses the challenge behind networking across different clouds or "multicloud networking." The only other company addressing multicloud networking is Aviatrix, but Raynovich says the companies are "solving slightly different problems" and Aviatrix appears to be more focused on management and visibility of applications within clouds versus across clouds. Aviatrix recently received $40 million in Series C funding in October to reach a total of $76 million in investments.

Figure 1: Amir and Atif Khan have launched a new company focused on simplifying multi-cloud networking. Amir and Atif Khan have launched a new company focused on simplifying multi-cloud networking.

Amir Khan, CEO and founder of Alkira, says customers have expressed frustration with the tedious – and often lengthy – process of setting up even a single cloud, and attempts to tie clouds together "is a nightmare." In addition, Amir says enterprises face many challenges such as address management across multiple clouds, and challenges in connecting to clouds across multiple regions globally stemming from the issue of having to "cross multiple service provider and cloud provider boundaries," says Amir.

An additional challenge is that "the underlying constructs of how networking is done in the cloud was very difficult for customers to understand and then having the challenge of building a network on top of that," explains Amir. The complexity of this process grows exponentially as enterprises utilize applications in multiple clouds.

Alkira's flagship product is a virtual construct called Cloud Services Exchange (CSX), which the company says provides network engineers with the ability to quickly deploy and manage a point-and-click, as-a-service multicloud network without upfront CapEx or certified training. Also, the service currently connects on-premise networks to the Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP) and Microsoft Azure clouds globally. Alkira is also integrated with a number of firewalls and security services – such as Palo Alto Networks – and will also connect to additional clouds in the future.

"Our solution is designed for the cloud, it's as a service, it's on demand, it scales up and down based on the customer's requirements, and we charge similarly to the cloud providers – it's pay as you go," says Amir.

Next page: The multicloud networking case for enterprises and service providers

Alkira's approach makes the cloud environment more adaptive and automated, which can simplify enterprises' management of their networks, improve their ability to provision for network capacity, and deliver cost savings, says Ray Mota, CEO and principal analyst for ACG Research.

"It's making the network-as-a-service … and is a good foundation for making the industry think about simplifying the network itself and making it look like a traditional cloud."

"You can almost think of Alkira as being a cloud-agnostic, network-as-a-service, normalization layer," explains Zeus Kerravala, founder and principal analyst for ZK Research. "You have all the functionality of cloud-native tools and can also apply those different network services and policies across clouds."

Alkira's CSX platform provides regionalized cloud to Internet or SaaS connectivity; integrates global multicloud network services suite such as security, global load balancing, and IP address management; provides hourly billing based on bandwidth and services such as the number of connections to the cloud; and a customer management dashboard.

In addition, Alkira built their infrastructure on top of the hyperscaler's cloud infrastructure to provide a globally-available service. Customers choose their site regions in a dashboard and Alkira deploys a Cloud Exchange Point (CXP) which provides a "combination of routing, segmentation, connectivity into services and connects from on-premise to the cloud," says Amir.

Enterprises of any vertical or size – especially mid to large enterprises – can benefit from CSX, adds Amir. Currently, Alkira is delivering CSX to customers via partners including World Wide Technology (WWT), Nissho USA, EOS IT Solutions and Bridgepointe Solutions. Alkira plans to eventually work with service providers to deploy CSX as a managed service. Kerravala believes "alternative service providers" such as Comcast or Masergy would likely be the first-movers in delivering Alkira's platform as a managed service, versus traditional, large telcos such as AT&T or Verizon.

"Service providers are excited because [CSX] provides them with the ability to not only extend their connectivity capabilities into the cloud but to also offer more higher-layer services to their customer," says Amir.

Alkira has raised $30 million in investments from Kleiner Perkins and Sequoia Capital, both in a Series A round; as well as GV, formerly Google Ventures, which invested in an additional financing round. Sequoia also led the Series A and Series B investment rounds in Viptela, which was acquired by Cisco in 2017 for $610 million. Viptela was also one of the initial SD-WAN vendors.

"Almost every company of any significant size is going to go multicloud and you need a network to help facilitate that," says Kerravala. "That's what [Alkira] brings to the table. The whole world is going cloud-native, such as on the app side and with developer tools. The last piece of the puzzle that hasn't gone cloud-native is networking, and we'll probably see more companies like this pop up."

— Kelsey Kusterer Ziser, Senior Editor, Light Reading

About the Author(s)

Kelsey Ziser

Senior Editor, Light Reading

Kelsey is a senior editor at Light Reading, co-host of the Light Reading podcast, and host of the "What's the story?" podcast.

Her interest in the telecom world started with a PR position at Connect2 Communications, which led to a communications role at the FREEDM Systems Center, a smart grid research lab at N.C. State University. There, she orchestrated their webinar program across college campuses and covered research projects such as the center's smart solid-state transformer.

Kelsey enjoys reading four (or 12) books at once, watching movies about space travel, crafting and (hoarding) houseplants.

Kelsey is based in Raleigh, N.C.

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