CEO Corner Series: Interview with Glue Networks CEO and Co-Founder, Jeff Gray

This featured interview with Glue Networks Co-Founder CEO, Jeff Gray, 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.

Jeff Gray

Jeff Gray

Co-Founder and CEO, Glue Networks




ONUG: Glue Networks just announced a major product enhancement. How does it impact your customer base and the industry at large?

Gray: Yes. We just announced our Gluware 2.0 product that is industry’s first network-aware and customizable SD-WAN orchestration platform. It understands all the granular features, inter-dependencies and overall architecture making it state-aware from a provisioning and life-cycle management perspective. It is customizable as we are opening up our best practices framework so that network engineers can insert their own best practices into a rapid development environment.

The goal is to enable DevOps functionality for network engineers, and bring agility to the world of enterprise networking.

ONUG: How’s it different from Gluware 1.0 and what does it provide IT executives at a high level?

Gray: We built it (Gluware 2.0) on top of our 1.0 orchestration engine. We added Gluware Control that enables network-aware zero-touch provisioning and life cycle management. It brings the concept of dynamic network modeling to the SD-WAN infrastructure. The other component is Gluware Lab, a rapid development environment used internally inside our company for several years to code in new architectures and best practices into our orchestration engine. We are opening up that platform for network engineers to do the same. Indeed, it is the industry’s first network development kit, NDK. Further, we have created a framework called the FLOW, the Flexible Language Object Workstream, that is a series of annotations and extensions built on industry-standard languages, designed for network engineers to code in their own best practices and then port those network objects into the orchestration engine. It’s now fully customizable.

For IT business executives, it translates into three benefits: It simplifies network connectivity, reduces network life-cycle management costs, and boosts network agility.

Gluware has been in global production since 2012 and we have Fortune 500, Fortune 100 SD-WANs, some of the largest companies.

ONUG: What is the update process for your existing customer base?

Gray: The update is seamless and the same rapid development process we have used to develop features to support our customers is now productized. Also, as we are cloud-based, we’ll be releasing the new 2.0 features in close synchronization with our customers. There will be a little bit of work to ensure seamless transition, but there will be no disruption to the live networks.

ONUG: Glue Networks was apparently a trailblazer in the SDN-WAN arena back in 2007. What motivated the founders at the time to invest in a technology that was still very new and early in its cycle?

Gray: We were building large WANs before but we did it manually. But, the light bulb went off and we realized that if we could orchestrate and automate this process, it would be of huge value to the customers and that resulted in our founding.

ONUG: How do you differentiate your product portfolio and who is your target audience?

Gray: Our portfolio is SD-WAN higher layer orchestration data-modeling software that provides provisioning and life-cycle management that is now network-aware and customizable. We also differentiated our solution by not focusing on the network stack and the lower layer as we did not want to reinvent the wheel and rediscover the fire. We took a different approach from the typical SD-WAN companies. We focused on the higher layer and believe this is where the long-term value for user is.

Our target customers are large enterprises, value-added resellers, and managed service providers as our solution supports multi-tenancy and is highly scalable.

ONUG: What benefits do your customers experience both on cost and feature fronts?

Gray: First, it is possible through our SD-WAN architecture to achieve 60% to 80% cost reduction in WAN circuit costs. The savings come from a hybrid WAN architecture that accommodates a choice of transports.

Glue’s value is about creating agility, allowing IT to deliver more rapidly and with richer feature sets and making changes quickly. For many of our customers, we are boosting their performance by ten times and still saving cost.

Our typical customer is an enterprise with more than 50 branches, and those that don’t want to rip and replace everything. These are companies that want to operate networks much like Google’s and Facebook’s, but don’t want to build their own orchestration platforms in-house.

ONUG: Glue Networks has a very close business partnership with Cisco. Is it an exclusive partnership, and can you describe the nature of this arrangement?

Gray: We are a Cisco Solution Partner and chose Cisco based on all of its advanced capabilities and architecture as well as holding the lion’s share of the installed market.

It was a natural choice. We fit very nicely in the Cisco partner eco-system with our cloud-based orchestration SD-WAN platform. Gluware was also designed to orchestrate Cisco’s APIC-EM Controller (Cisco Application Policy Infrastructure Controller-Enterprise Module).

ONUG: How have Glue and other SD-WAN companies impacted the service provider MPLS offerings?

Gray: We look at SD-WAN as MPLS +. Most of our customers have retained their MPLS investment, but, they have augmented it with an Internet connection for a hybrid WAN. Only a handful of customers have focused on cost savings only and even those that moved to broadband connections at branches have still retained MPLS in the core. While many customers could save 60-80%, they have opted for more bandwidth compared to their legacy WAN. Most IT executives want more performance.

Our service provider customers have actually gained more margin using SD-WANs because they have not had to over-provision their own MPLS core to backhaul the traffic—they are able to leverage the Internet to extend their services.

ONUG: What are your challenges?

Gray: Orchestration is a strategic layer and we believe that we really understand the needs and requirement of customers. Our biggest challenge is helping customers to understand that solutions they are looking for in orchestration are already here. Our next challenge will be keeping up with our customers’ next set of requirements.

ONUG: How can you contribute to ONUG’s goal of achieving open solutions and interoperability, going forward?

Gray: We will continue to focus on what the ONUG Board and user group is asking for, and deliver on what users need.

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