Aryaka’s Ashwath Nagaraj on the future of the SD-WAN market


1 Nov 2019392 Views

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Ashwath Nagaraj Image: Aryaka

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‘Enterprises require the flexibility to equip any site with a full security stack,’ says Ashwath Nagaraj, CTO of Aryaka.

Aryaka is a provider of software-defined networking solutions in wide-area networks (SD-WAN) to globally distributed enterprises. The California-based company was co-founded in 2009 by Ajit Gupta, Rajeev Bharadhwaj and Ashwath Nagaraj.

Here, Nagaraj, who is the firm’s CTO, discusses the possibilities for 5G, a cloud-first approach to security, and more.

‘We have a very active customer advisory board and digital transformation is top-of-mind for all of them’
– ASHWATH NAGARAJ

Tell me about your own role and your responsibilities in driving tech strategy?

I co-founded Aryaka a decade ago and have led many of the technology initiatives and cutting-edge services we’ve developed. Currently I’m CTO for the company and, with others, help set the overall technology and services vision in a rapidly evolving and growing market.

Are you spearheading any major product/IT initiatives you can tell us about?

As the SD-WAN market matures and enterprises move on from, ‘Can this be done?’ to ,‘How do I complete the picture?’, we’re focusing on the latter concerns. This includes more comprehensive and integrated SD-WAN security, more advanced analytics and additional flexibility in WAN connectivity options, anchored by our recent HybridWAN announcement that focused on direct internet connectivity, and what I prefer to call a ‘blended WAN’.

How big is your team? Do you outsource where possible?

Aryaka has a distributed engineering team with a major presence in both Silicon Valley and Bangalore, India. We have more than 250 employees in our engineering and customer success organisations – the latter is critical to managing our managed SD-WAN offering and our net promoter scores. At the present time, very little of what we do lends itself to outsourcing.

What are your thoughts on digital transformation and how are you addressing it?

We have a very active customer advisory board and digital transformation is top-of-mind for all of them. Our place in this is the WAN transformation aspect – how the enterprise must evolve their WAN to better match their digital business initiatives. In this, it is imperative that the WAN does not become a barrier to innovation. For example, an enterprise wishes to distribute applications and data globally, accessible by any employee.

Another way to look at this is that every employee has a ‘LAN-like’ experience across the WAN. SD-WAN helps enable this. Another point is the evolution of IT and the adoption of the cloud consumption model.

Over the last decade, enterprises have adopted the public cloud and now consume rather than construct, an OPEX versus a CAPEX model. Our vision is that the same thing is happening in the networking space, where a managed offering, removing the complexity from the enterprise, is critical to digital transformation.

What big tech trends do you believe are changing the world and your industry specifically?

Given we have a global footprint, many of our customers are always looking for better ways to connect. We’ve seen 4G/LTE as a viable backup technology, but with the deployment of 5G, cellular now becomes an option for primary connectivity.

5G also addresses new classes of endpoints for our service and we’re in conversations regarding autonomous vehicles as SD-WAN endpoints. Looking further out, low earth orbit (LEO) satellites will also play a role in branch connectivity.

We also are closely tracking the AI and machine learning field, and, in fact, have implemented some predictive analytics capabilities based on our global customer and service databases. We expect capabilities to evolve, offering us, our partners and our customers greater insight.

In terms of security, what are your thoughts on how we can better protect data?

Taking a cloud-first approach, more of the security gateway functionality will move into the cloud, and even branch sites will make use of it. Thus, the evolving use of the term security-as-a-service.

However, enterprises do require the flexibility to equip any site with a full security stack. What is important is that the operational model and capabilities be harmonised across both environments, and that it is an integral part of any managed SD-WAN offering, not a bolt-on.

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