CEO Corner Series: Interview with Avni CEO, Rohini Kasturi

This featured interview with Avni CEO & founder, Rohini Kasturi, is a part of the ongoing ONUG CEO Corner Series.

In the last few years, the rise of cloud computing and its complexities has given rise to a crop of precocious start-ups, causing a gradual but dramatic shift in the networking industry.  

Most enterprises, typically tied to older, hardware-based networking architectures, are weighed down by vendor lock-ins, computing silos, and exorbitant operational costs. The mix of cloud computing into this equation has raised serious security, scaling and monumental network management issues. This climate has made for a great opening for the start-ups rolling out comprehensive, secure, scalable, yet simple software defined networking solutions that work with hybrid cloud computing environments.

These companies, along with leading, established providers, are crucial to ONUG’s goal to bring SDN open solutions to the enterprise. In an effort to get a better understanding of the on-going vision of these start-up and incumbent providers, ONUG brings you the CEO Corner Series.

rohini kasturi

Rohini Kasturi

Founder & CEO, Avni


ONUG: What market trends and shifts inspired you to form Avni?

Kasturi: Three hot trends, namely the cloud, virtualization and software-defined networking, were starting to come together. The public cloud itself had matured enough to offer infrastructure services; new software-defined data centers, such as the solutions from VMware, were being introduced; and topping it, acceptance of virtualization and SDN was becoming more prevalent. Addressing the challenges these new trends were creating is what motivated us to create Avni.

ONUG: Avni has publicly stated that it aims to enable organizations to realize their private, public, or hybrid cloud strategy by transforming their data centers to software-defined cloud. In view of that, can you elaborate Avni’s specific goal?

Kasturi: We spoke to some hundred plus potential customers, and it became clear that their biggest goal was transforming their business to operate in the digital economy. To address their end-user demands, these businesses need to deliver their services faster and at a lower cost, making agility, flexibility and cost reduction the centerpiece of their IT agenda. Although point solutions are maturing, they are unable to roll out their applications quickly.

Avni’s Software Defined Cloud platform virtualizes the cloud underneath so customers can deploy existing applications on their choice of clouds in a few minutes instead of weeks or months. This self-service model, along with the analytics-driven automation, allows customers to respond faster and implement new business applications across a choice of clouds.

One of our large enterprise customers in the financial services industry runs background checks. Previously, it took six to eight weeks for them to roll out an application. This process also involves integrating the application with network services, like load-balancing and security. To accelerate and automate it, we create an application blue-print that can be launched, tested and deployed across the enterprise in a few minutes. As a result, customers can create their applications in a private cloud, with auto-scaling, elasticity and self-adapting capabilities while managing applications, network services and the cloud from a single controller. The best part is they are not locked into any one vendor.

ONUG: 2015 is being touted as the year when enterprise IT establishments are being hard-pressed to fix their hybrid cloud challenges. Are Avni’s solutions commercially available and are you working with other partners to provide a comprehensive solution?

Kasturi: We launched in April earlier this year and the solution is in production at several customer sites in media, retail and other vertical segments.

Realizing the hybrid cloud challenge means customizing applications for the cloud, and start building in-house tools to achieve that strategy. The other solution is for enterprises to use our platform to define policies to take care of it. We are also doing partnership arrangements with HP, Citrix and other vendors so they can bring in their network services like load-balancing, security and acceleration to the mix. If customers have a preference and want to use other vendors’ network services, our solution can work with it. This is about freedom of choice for customers.

ONUG: You have offices in India and here. How do you divide your operations?

Kasturi: We have a very strong engineering and development team that is based in India and here in the U.S. The corporate offices are here in the U.S.

ONUG: How do you differentiate from your competitors and what are your biggest challenges?

Kasturi: If you meld applications and analytics, companies in application performance management could be considered a competitor; and if you combine network services and analytics, it would be companies in network optimization. We will see overlaps like these for some parts of the overall solution, but what you don’t see anywhere else is an end-to-end solution like ours that combines network services, applications and cloud together with policy-driven analytics and data.

ONUG: Who is your typical customer?

Kasturi: Media, retail and e-commerce customers that change data and content frequently are most interested in hybrid clouds whereas finance and healthcare customers are interested in deploying private clouds. Smaller businesses that do not have their own data centers are the ones who are interested in public-cloud implementations.

ONUG: What is your biggest challenge moving forward?

Kasturi: Our biggest challenge is getting customers to adopt this new model that does not require existing applications to be retooled to move them to clouds of their choice. Creating that momentum over the next 18 months is going to be key for us.

ONUG: To ONUG, open solutions and vendor interoperability are critical. How and when will the industry meet those demands, you think?

Kasturi: The large incumbents are going to drive their existing portfolio. However, the new start-ups can change the paradigm and the shift to providing choices to customers through open solutions.

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