CEO Corner Series: Interview with Nuage Networks CEO, Sunil Khandekar

This featured interview with Nuage Networks CEO, Sunil Khandekar, 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.

Sunil Khandekar

Sunil Khandekar

Founder & CEO, Nuage Networks




ONUG: How does the recent merger announcement of Nokia and Alcatel-Lucent impact the future of Nuage Networks, a subsidiary of Alcatel-Lucent?

Khandekar: In terms of the merger, it just means deeper pockets to execute on our vision at Nuage. Alcatel-Lucent has been a committed sponsor of Nuage Networks and a strong proponent of the value we bring to the Alcatel-Lucent portfolio. Guidance regarding the merger and company strategy moving forward will unfold in due time as the acquisition proceeds.

ONUG: What makes Nuage unique among start-ups in the SDN/virtualized services arena?

Khandekar: First and foremost, Nuage is a virtualized network services platform (VSP) rather than a just a point solution for data centers. Our VSP is also an open standards-based, with a declarative policy engine that allows customers to virtualize and automate network connectivity and services within and across datacenters, while integrating with wide-area networks and addressing remote business locations. No other solution in the market provides a unified framework for consumption and control over workloads in public, private or hybrid clouds.

Further, ours is the only solution that provides seamless networking across virtualized, bare metal and container-based applications. The bottom line is that our portfolio not only allows IT executives to have a policy-driven automated environment, but also offers a comprehensive operations framework that allows full analytics and correlation of SDN (software-defined network) overlays and their choice of physical network underlay components. In the end, it gives the CEOs the ability to transform their business to the cloud, providing agility as well as visibility and operational simplicity.

ONUG: When did you launch your business unit and when did your solution become commercially available?

Khandekar: That is another differentiation. We launched the Nuage Networks venture in April 2013, and shipped our solution almost immediately thereafter in May 2013. This was possible as we had validated our solution with key customers throughout the development process, in many cases leveraging long-standing Alcatel-Lucent relationships.

ONUG: What major problems do you solve for your enterprise and cloud service-provider customers?

Khandekar: Having a consistent policy framework helps customers seamlessly automate their private cloud across all virtualized, bare metal and container workloads, with the same quality infrastructure and control of workloads as today’s public clouds. Policy-driven control gives IT executives a consistent fine-grained security model across their entire infrastructure including branch offices and remote locations. Cloud service providers are involved in building a better AWS (Amazon Web Services) in their local markets, and we help them do that. Further, our open solution delivers on critical attributes like multi-tenancy, hierarchical control, support for variable mix of workloads and hypervisor environments that cloud service providers are looking for to best serve customers in their local markets.

On the cost front, we can actually create over 50% efficiency in operational costs as a result of our policy-driven approach; in addition, we have shown 40% increase in asset utilization across network resources, and an order of magnitude improvement in turn-up and response time, not to mention a ten-fold reduction in configuration errors.

ONUG: Who are your competitors?

Khandekar: Incumbents tend to have point solutions. On the data center front, a major competitor is VMware. Customers, however, are increasingly looking for a unified framework that is open and standards-based for multi-datacenter environments as well as their branch offices, which puts us in quite a favorable position with our offering.

ONUG: What is your product portfolio, and how does it support the open solutions concept?

Khandekar: The Virtualized Services Platform from Nuage Networks is a software-based solution that is an open and declarative policy framework. Its three modules are: Virtualized Services Directory, a policy engine where service templates and applications are designed. It is multi-tenanted, offers hierarchical control and a built-in analytics engine backed by Hadoop;  Virtualized Services Controller which uses a proven networking OS (operating system) that has been operationalized and deployed by over 600 service providers in the largest of networks, and uses standard routing protocols such as MP-BGP (Multi-protocol BGP); and the VRS, an OpenVswitch data plane agent that gets programmed from the controller to enforce workloads that connect at the server level. When the solution extends to branch locations, it is simply the same software running on any x86 platform while the other two components of the VSP remain the same.

At its core, OpenSource is about customers wanting flexibility and freedom of choice. OpenSource, however, is not to be confused with cheap and free; we are committed to the movement, but the process has to be community-driven with independent governance. We contribute to OpenStack and are the only SDN vendor to contribute to CloudStack. The bottom line is our solution is completely open and does not use a single proprietary protocol.

ONUG: Going forward, what are your expectations for Nuage? And, what are your challenges?

Khandekar: Our vision is to provide the most robust open standards-based network services platform for customers.  In the enterprise market, our competitors’ incumbency albeit in a different area is our biggest challenge as they try to use that to block us out.  However, increasingly customers are evaluating us based on our capabilities and performance in pilots/trials.

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