A conversation with the CEO of Aryaka Networks, Ajit Gupta

Taking the Telco Carriers head on.

Over the next two months I will be talking to CEOs about their companies, the market and what is new. This week we have Ajit Gupta, the CEO of Aryaka Networks. His company is taking on the telco carriers worldwide as well as the WAN acceleration vendors.

1. So why don't you tell us about your product or products since you have come out with some new ones.

Aryaka's focus is on simplifying and optimizing the enterprise network. Today, we have three services providing enterprises new ways to communicate, collaborate and share applications, large files and data.

WAN Optimization as-a-Service combines multi-tenant WAN Optimization technology with enterprise-grade connectivity utilizing a dedicated reliable core network based on globally distributed Points of Presence (POPs). The service accelerates any application to any location over one affordable, optimized network. There's no more need for costly Riverbed-like appliances and private AT&T/Verizon MPLS links.

Application Delivery as-a-Service leverages this same network architecture and TCP Optimization technology and enables distributed users partners, suppliers, customers and home/mobile users to quickly access centralized enterprise applications, Saas or Cloud resources from anywhere in the world.

Network as-a-Service is a lower-cost alternative for site-to-site connectivity or Cloud/SaaS access, and provides organizations an optimized network with QoS for instant and reliable business connectivity. No more waiting for expensive, dumb private MPLS links.

All of our services provide end-to-end visibility of both application and network performance across the global platform with 24x7 world-class support.

2. Who do you see as your biggest competitor and why? Do you think appliance vendors or telco carriers?

It's the "Do It Yourself" or DIY IPSec VPNs users that we compete with the most. We rarely bump into the Telcos and the appliance vendors, except when we catch a prospect running in the opposite direction- either because of sticker shock or because of delivery timelines and complexity. We're thrilled when we rescue these prospects and convert them to the simpler and more refined way of optimizing their wide area networks.

3. Who do you see as your biggest technical competitor?

There really is no one else out there who does what we do. Again, it's those smart IT staffers who are not yet aware that Aryaka offers an easier and more affordable way to instantly solve their connectivity, network and application performance issues. Part of redefining this multi-billion-dollar market is evangelizing this game-changing and innovative approach for a simple, affordable solution.

4. Why do customers like your product compared to an MPLS or IPVPN network with appliances?

Simpler and more affordable, up and running right away and 24/7 support included. Besides the simplicity, our customers have the 'wow' moment with immediate, dramatic improvements in network and application performance - some applications run as much as 100X faster.

For example, we had a customer who within minutes of going live during a trial experienced a 32X improvement in file transfer speed. The end users in the UK were shocked with the improvement and implored the New Zealand headquarters IT staff: "What the hell did you do? Whatever it is, don't change it!"

It's not just performance and it's more than economics - those are table stakes in this market and you need to be a lot more. You need to address the true pain of today's IT teams. That pain includes smaller budgets, fewer resources, more demands, more devices, applications and locations- all this in the face of aggressive business goals. Our clients thirst for business agility - and they get it when they choose Aryaka. They don't have to wait months to provision MPLS links or configure on-premise appliances at each end. The result is faster time-to-market for their products, an increased competitive advantage, and most of all, happy customers. It's a win-win across the entire value chain.

Compared to MPLS, our service has many advantages customers like:

-          Optimized application performance - up to 100X

-          Faster deployment - minutes or a couple days vs. weeks or months

-          Elastic capacity

-          The ability to burst beyond the subscribed bandwidth

-          Lower monthly costs

-          Fully managed service with 24/7 support

-          End-to-end WAN and application visibility

-          High performance, reliable access to SaaS and public cloud-based services

Compared to IPSec VPN with WAN Optimization appliances, what customers like about Aryaka includes:

-          Faster to deploy and simpler to manage

-          A private WAN as part of the package

-          Far superior performance across oceans with our multi-segment architecture.

-          Globally distributed POPs

-          Zero CAPEX, lower total cost of ownership

-          Fully managed service with 24/7 support

-          End-to-end WAN and application visibility

-          High performance, reliable access to SaaS and public cloud-based services

5. Where do you see your products expanding to next, or options you will add to the current product?

You can certainly expect us to continue making improvements to our existing services, adding capabilities that larger enterprises are requesting. Our products expand in directions our customer lead us. We drive future functionality based on customer input, repeat feedback from prospects and learning through trials.  

6. Do you see consolidation in the marketplace or more companies starting up in this space?

We believe there is lots of new opportunity in this space - as do some very smart investors that are betting on our success. Our market traction validates the need for what we've built.  We've all seen the traditional WAN Optimization hardware market stagnating the past 12-18 months while the redefined enterprise is clearly adopting different strategies today- becoming more nimble and cost conscious while continuing to demand a higher level of service from their providers- all of which we offer because of our as-a-service approach. We welcome true competition as it only validates the vision we have created.

7. What new verticals, segments do you see Aryaka moving into within the next few years?

We started with a focus on the underserved mid-market, and have been most successful with companies looking for global networks and application performance between distributed locations on different continents. I see us moving to serve mid-market as well as larger enterprises, and enterprises looking for integrated cloud services access. We already have success in various verticals including technology, manufacturing, logistics, architecture, financial services and many more.

8. Let's talk about the cloud, what is Aryaka doing in the cloud now? Such as MS 365.

From the beginning, we've been the ideal way for customers to access public cloud-based services and SaaS. The benefits of our POP-based approach are particularly evident here. The same technology used for connecting enterprise locations to each other is used to deliver accelerated, predictable performance to cloud-based services.

Even customers keeping their MPLS networks for site-to-site connectivity benefit hugely from our solution when trying to use services based in the cloud, rather than being dependent on the performance variations of the public Internet.

9. So basically you can bring all the customers end points together and give them cloud access to anything?

That's right.

10. What is the typical ROI a customer could see?

The ROI is immediate and its calculation ranges from enabling global access to cloud services across a private network- which is not really possible across all cloud services without Aryaka. The zero capex, only opex approach is preferred by many a CFO for obvious operational and financial reasons. Customers see positive economic returns from their first month of use. Dollars are earned at each step, from immediate time to deployment, faster time to market, higher per-user productivity and overall a lower cost of ownership. The ROI is a no brainer.

11. Can you tell us where your current pops are located and expansion planes for the next year or two?

Our worldwide network of distributed POPs are placed close to end users and connected via our private core network. The design criteria for pop locations is to ensure less than 20-millisecond latency for over 90 percent of the world's business users. Key locations include San Jose, Sao Paulo, London, Tel Aviv, Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai, Beijing, Mumbai, Bangalore, Sydney among others. Upcoming locations will be in South Africa, Argentina, Korea and Japan. 

12. With your product out now, do you think telco carriers will drop prices on international MPLS links to compete or they still think you are too small?

MPLS has been around for decades and the pricing for links continues to drop, especially on a regional deployment. Competitive pressure will make companies drop prices on a case-by-case basis, but these are huge organizations with large investments and dropping pricing to low margins may not always be an option. And, more importantly, our product is not just a dumb network like MPLS (though we have network as-a-service including TCP optimization). We provide the connectivity as well and the WAN Optimization capability and application visibility, so we're much more than a simple price play. We win on our performance, our customer service and our ability to get our customers up and running the same day.

13. What is the one question when meeting with potential customers that you get the most and why?

Where have you been Aryaka? Why didn't you find me before I signed my MPLS contract or bought these clunky appliances?

And then they ask: Can I still use your services for locations I could not afford on the traditional model or to offset costs as my enterprise grows? (Yes, you can, in fact we co-exist with private links and appliances and have a number of customers that have successfully eliminated both appliance and private links over time).

14. How do you get them to buy into this vision and new cloud network?

Typically, a free trial is all it takes.

We ask them if they want to do away with the cost and complexity of the old way, if they want global connectivity available the same day, if they want a 24/7 network operations center watching their back while they sleep. We have yet to come across a CIO that can say no to us.   Ease of deployment and management, and elimination of capital costs aren't ideas that require much arm-twisting to get buy-in!

15. Do you see Aryaka doubling in sales within 5 years?

I see Aryaka doing a lot better than that. We just announced a year-over-year subscription growth of 416% and the market response has been very promising.

16. What is the biggest misconception about Aryaka that people believe or hear?

Well, perhaps because I am CEO they all tell me they understand who we are perfectly!

Because of my background, some folks think we are like a CDN, which is perhaps a great way to explain how the architecture works. Unlike CDN, we focus on applications behind the firewall for the most part.

Others cannot imagine we wrote each line of code for optimization and built a global network. They think we took off the shelf appliances and put them in our POPs. That's just not the right model for a true service. To run an optimized global network like ours, its not just what a customer sees, its what we have built behind the scenes to provision, monitor and manage this network and the software that runs on it that makes us truly unique and difficult to replicate.

17. Do you think too many engineers, directors or CIO's are stuck in the old days and don't really understand how this service can help them?

Not at all. The economic changes since 2008 have created a new breed of CIOs working closely with the CFO to be nimble, to do everything at a lower cost and finish it in a shorter time. A growing number of IT professionals are asking to be liberated from the tyranny and madness of expensive appliances.  They also don't want to have to wait months to get MPLS quotes and pull circuits into offices only to find out that their applications still don't work as well as they should.

I'm a big believer in the Technology Adoption Lifecycle. While there are always plenty of laggards and late buyers, there are also plenty of innovators and early adopters. As we see by our sales success, we're already getting many of these, and we're headed towards mainstream adoption in 2013.

18. If you could partner with one company right now to expand your product line or sales, who would it be and why?

It's usually not one partner or one relationship that makes or breaks a company. Its wider market adoption and continuously working with partners that believe in us, that want to represent us and most importantly, can make money doing so- both for themselves and us.

19. iPad, iphone or android? What do you own?

I personally own a wide range of Apple products, sometimes more than one of each. I get mine delivered the first day they come out.

20. What kind of songs are on your mp3 player?

Bollywood movie hits, Indian folk, popular, pop, and classical.

21. Being an executive like myself you have to have a release. Mine is golf or my handheld satellite radio. What is yours?

Driving my Mercedes SLS - fast like my network.

22. Fly, drive or train; which would you take the most if you had the chance?

Train. The memory of long train journeys brings me back to my roots. Growing up in India, trains were the way to travel for the middle class.

23. In the movie Almost Famous, what was the name of the bus they traveled in?

Doris (Thank goodness for Wikipedia.)


Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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