Alkira wins $54 million funding from Koch Industries to develop cloud networks ‘as a service’
- Alkira is building a unified network in the cloud, claiming it relieves customers of cloud-linking complexity
- Claims it utilises the hyperscale cloud backbone infrastructure already available
- Solution offers common capabilities across all environments
Up until quite recently we were all watching the battle of the clouds - various protagonists competing to produce the ‘best’ and biggest public cloud, with the industry duly recording the number of cloud customers each had and how much money they were making, confident that there would be a winner. Now it’s become clear that cloud users (corporates and telcos) don’t want a battle to the death or to the merger, but would rather have distinct cloud choices with technology to enable them to use them all. So naturally we now have a battle over who is best at linking clouds. The general challenge is: how to offer such a capability without becoming mired in the any-to-any complexity.
There are many, perhaps dozens, of companies and start-ups chasing this one, so now it’s all about determining which of the approaches have the best chance of breaking through. One of the candidates is Alkira: its founders, Amir and Atif Khan, have a good Powerpoint-side manner; Atif is the CTO and Amir has an impressive track record building Viptela (SD-WAN software snapped up by Cisco back in 2017) and the company has attracted the attention of the giant Koch Industries who, in the best Remington tradition, liked using the Alkira software so much that they bought into the company, leading its second round to the tune $54 million. In total Alkira has raised $76 million.
Its approach is to build a virtual unified network in the cloud itself. Cloud native apps and services can be replicated and spun up where they’re needed within the cloud of clouds. These work together to deliver a ‘Global Network Infrastructure as-a-service’.
This approach seems to flip the classical approach to building networks, which is basically to build them from top to bottom and then try to engineer them to not fall over when multiple sessions are run. Alkira’s Amir Kahn says his company’s approach is to use ‘intent’ principles’ to spin up a required network on demand, as a service - one configured to meet the needs of the applications about to be placed on it (that’s where the ‘intent’ comes in).
“When we sold Viptela, I took some time off and then looked around to see what I could do next... what was the next problem in networking that needed to be resolved?” he explained.
“Customers who wanted to link across different cloud environments were struggling to bring the cloud network pieces together - there are so many underlying nuances and limitations and everything had to be stitched together manually, so while cloud was offering a new way of doing things, networking was never offered ‘as a service’.”
So that was the opportunity, he says. “To bring out a service that was completely ‘as a service’; global in nature; and offering common capabilities across all environments.”
Best of all, the on-demand network utilises the hyperscale infrastructure already available, usually as a cloud backbone, but also connecting with various access network types on a global basis.
Why it’s a better approach to cloud linking
“The current way of doing things sees people either deploy a solution in the colocation facilities bringing along their own hardware to do it and often spending millions of dollars to connect to multiple clouds,” says Amir. “The second way to do it is in virtual environments where they create what we call ‘transport hubs’ and they do it independently for each cloud.” In that case there’s virtual deployment of routers, firewalls and so on which eventually becomes unbearable for customers since there’s so much complexity to grapple with.
“So our opportunity was to build our own (virtual) infrastructure in the cloud for the cloud,” says Amir. The integration of services like routing, address management and so on are provided as a mix of their own and third party services, so the other essential part of the Alkira offer is its marketplace for services between Alkira customers.
What about the telcos? “We are working with telcos who want to be more relevant in the cloud and we are working with them to use their underlying transport services where appropriate.“
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