VCs bet $33M you’ll want to use Avi Networks’ white box hardware for app delivery

Ex-Cisco execs who co-founded Avi hope to do for ADC what SDN has done for the network.

Avi Networks, a network startup formed by ex-Cisco executives and backed by $33 million in venture capital, came out of stealth Wednesday with the announcement of a system designed to boost the performance of enterprise applications accessed via the cloud and mobile devices.

Unlike traditionally structured application delivery controllers (ADC), which are proprietary, specialized pieces of hardware, Avi’s Cloud Application Delivery Platform is essentially an ADC that runs on commodity silicon. The idea is to bring sophisticated optimization technology to businesses that couldn’t otherwise afford the sorts of things that Google, Facebook, Amazon and others provide for themselves in-house. (Avi’s announcement goes out of its way to liken the company’s technology to that of those giants, in fact.)

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CADP, Avi said, is more or less the software-defined networking (SDN) concept applied to application delivery, rather than the network as a whole. The basic framework is provided by the Hyperscale Distributed Resources Architecture, or HYDRA. It allows users to manage core application development services like load balancing and SSL termination, as well as extensive analytics information from a single system.

It’s a sea-change of no small scale, according to CEO Umesh Mahajan, who previously was vice president and general manager of a $2 billion data center switching unit at Cisco, and before that led the software team at Cisco SAN spin-in Andiamo. “In today’s mobile cloud era, the traditional appliance-centric, monolithic application delivery approach doesn’t work anymore,” he said in the statement.

(Mahajan’s co-founders also come from Cisco and Andiamo, and others on the management team hail from vendors such as Juniper Networks and F5. That probably goes a long way toward explaining how they got substantial funding from big name venture firms, including Greylock Partners, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Menlo Ventures.)

The product also features built-in integration with OpenStack, VMware and Cisco SDN fabrics. In terms of pricing, Avi offers both a bandwidth-based model and a “price by application scale/instance” scheme.

Sky not falling

According to IDC analyst Brad Casemore, the sky isn’t falling for traditional ADC vendors like Citrix and F5 (the latter of which Avi’s pitchwoman said the startup is looking to “take down”). At least, not yet.

“I don’t think established vendors will panic, but they will have to continue to architect and deliver their products in a manner that is consistent with and responds to the requirements of hybrid cloud and mobility,” he said.

It’s worth noting, also, that both F5 and Citrix already offer virtual editions of their ADC products. But Casemore said that it’s not a question of either hardware or software, but how a vendor can appeal to many models at the same time.

“Many enterprises will be looking for hybrid-cloud models where some application workloads are run in the public cloud, while others will run in a private cloud,” he said. “What Avi is trying to do is bring hyperscale-style load balancing and application delivery to enterprises who do not have the resources of a Google, Facebook, or an AWS.”

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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