Aryaka: Launching the new Era in WAN Optimization

Date:   Friday , April 29, 2011

It is quite rare in Silicon Valley for someone to achieve blockbuster success in back-to-back startup ventures but Ajit Gupta has always defied the norm. At Speedera Networks, he built one of the fastest growing companies in the valley, battling stalwarts in the industry, surviving and thriving during the bust and leading the eventual acquisition of the company to Akamai Technologies in 2005 for a staggering market-valued $500 million. Today, with his latest venture Aryaka Networks, Gupta is aiming to be a game changer once again – but bigger and better than his Speedera days. Out from its stealth mode last September, Aryaka, in a very short time has already made international headlines, swiftly captured the attention of the industry analyst community and has given many enterprises pause as to how they are managing today’s evolving, modern networks. How? Founded in 2008, Milpitas, California, based Aryaka resolves application and network performance issues faced by distributed enterprises. With a revolutionary SaaS model to WAN optimization and application acceleration, the company offers significant cost, ease of use and performance advantages, helping as many as eight million globally distributed companies achieve dramatic productivity gains and increased visibility into their WAN applications, locations and performance, while providing 24/7 world-class support.

Why Optimize WAN?
WAN optimization and acceleration has always been the ‘bee in the bonnet’ for enterprises of all sizes and types around the world. On one end, companies are globalizing with branch offices in multiple locations. At the same time they are centralizing all their IT assets to achieve economies of scale, control and security. However, this centralization of data and applications poses enormous IT challenges linked to security issues and the high volumes of data traversing­ global WAN links. These problems include high cost, poor performance in terms of both bandwidth and latency, poor visibility across branches, and complex management of acceleration and security equipment between branches, headquarters, and data centers.

This is because most of the applications used by the organization for work processes such as file transfers, sharing multimedia content and more were built to work on local networks located on premise within the enterprise. But when deployed on a WAN these applications are not very performance oriented. Hence, the need to optimize the WAN so that today’s mobile, agile workforce can nearly instantly access any application and any data from anywhere in the world whether at work ,on the road, at home or on holiday at the beach.

For years, the only way companies could achieve this optimization in WAN was by buying costly private links (MPLS, EVPL, IPLC, or Carrier Ethernet) to connect their distributed branches with their corporate applications. The most commonly used private link network, Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS), switches packets based on adding labels and provides predictable characteristics over a variety of topologies. Despite the advantages of private networks like MPLS, both data transport and application execution still suffer from latency, bandwidth restrictions and poor network visibility. Over the past decade, the network performance problem for enterprises has been partially addressed by a number of WAN Optimization Controller (WOC) vendors who perform Application Acceleration and WAN Optimization functions. These WOC vendors provide acceleration and optimization via costly hardware appliances, which are placed at both the Headquarters (HQ) and branch ends of the network.

Deploying all these complex solutions leaves a company struggling to manage complex multiple appliances, forced to deal with with the upgrades and maintenance and constantly battling scalability and security issues. But most of all, it is the high costs of these solutions that represents IT’s top challenge since each of the MPLS links and WAN optimization boxes cost any where near $50,000, and deploying each one of these at every office takes a toll on a company’s IT budget which every year is being tasked to do more with less.

It was these challenges in WAN optimization that set Gupta searching for an alternate solution that was affordable and easy to deploy. “With Speedera, I had developed a way to enable world-class Internet based-companies to better manage their external traffic i.e. the consumer-facing web based traffic by removing the need for physical caching appliances to achieve it. After the Speedera acquisition, I started thinking from the outside in and exploring the other kinds of traffic that enterprises faced. I realized that there a bigger traffic that enterprises have - the one with-in their internal network,” says Gupta.

With his expertise in SaaS and Cloud computing, which he helped pioneer, he wondered if there was a way to optimize and accelerate the network sans the heavy duty boxes. Though the idea seemed extremely cool but every time he discussed it with the people industry, Gupta received only negative response. “It seemed counter-intuitive. Everyone believed that it was impossible to achieve optimization without a box. But I’m not one to take no for an answer,” he says. After about six months of connecting with experts in the industry the ‘ah-ha’ moment finally dawned and Gupta quickly set up a team and started working on the idea.

After two years of being in the stealth mode, Aryaka finally launched its cloud-based WAN optimization solution. The company’s architecture is built on a number of globally distributed points of presence (PoPs) for WAN optimization that sit on large carrier networks around the world. Aryaka allows organizations to deploy WAN optimization capabilities by using a SaaS platform and to set up WAN optimization with only a few clicks, and without having to deploy any additional hardware.

The biggest area of change in the WAN optimization market over the last three years has been the delivery method of these solutions. The majority of announcements that have been made by WAN optimization vendors were centered around turning their hardware solutions into virtual appliances or enabling their products to better support managed WAN optimization services. This trend has been driven by the end-users’ request to simplify the management of WAN optimization solutions, reduce the total cost of ownership, support different network topologies and make these products more appealing for organizations that are deploying virtualization and cloud computing services. Aryaka’s solution takes this a step further and provides an innovative approach for addressing some of the key concerns that end-user organizations have about deploying WAN optimization solutions.

The trend of moving WAN optimization hardware out of the branch has been resonating with end-user organizations and a majority of WAN optimization vendors have been doing a good job of trying to adjust to it. However, Aryaka is not only taking WAN optimization solutions completely out of the branch, but also moving them outside of corporate firewalls, providing an almost CDN-like infrastructure for delivering these capabilities.

WAN Optimization: The Aryaka Way
The whole idea of Aryaka is to improve the communication between headquarters and branch offices. Most companies use Public Internet or a Private Network for data transfer. While Public Internet has a poor performance and is unpredictable; private networks are expensive and complex to manage, thanks to the MPLS networks and WAN optimization boxes deployed. In order to rescue the companies of this chaos, Aryaka takes the entire operation into the cloud. The solution is based on a number of globally distributed points of presence for WAN optimization that sit on servers deployed on large carrier networks around the world. Aryaka allows organizations to deploy WAN optimization capabilities by using a SaaS platform and set up WAN optimization techniques in only a few clicks, without having to deploy any additional hardware.

“We have bought network capacity in bulk from major vendors and deployed our software in datacenters provided by independent vendors. When a company opts for Aryaka, we route the company’s network through our POPs and connect it to its branch offices, making the communication faster and cheaper,” explains Gupta.

But how does the company achieve this? First, its proprietary software compresses any data transferred by at least four times. Thus files which may generally require 16mbps of bandwidth can now be transferred with just 2mbps of bandwidth after being compressed. Also it uses a trademark de-duplication technology by which it transmits only changes in a file rather than sending the complete file a second or third time, there by reducing the total amount of data transferred across the network.

An organization that spends $6,000 per month for using the Aryaka platform from six locations across the globe can save in excess of $1 million over three years — a 567-percent return on investment, the company assures. The figure includes network savings and productivity gains.

“Organizations were deluged with appliances and burdened by their inherent cost and complexity,” says Gupta. “We are offering a fundamental architectural and business-model shift in how application acceleration and WAN optimization should be delivered. We bring headquarters closer to their branches.”

Currently the company’s main focus lies in setting up a concrete network between U.S. and India. Of Aryaka’s 25 POPs across 12 countries, four are in India — across Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai and Chennai, making it the company’s largest center outside U.S. “We not only help the head quarters in the U.S. connect with its offices in India better but also improve the communication between the local branches with in India.”

ARYAKA vs. Traditional Optimization Solutions
What gives Aryaka an edge over the traditional solutions is more than its cost effectiveness. Since based on a SaaS model the company significantly reduces initial setup costs and provides an optimized network services via a subscription model. This pay-as-you-grow approach gives enterprises tremendous flexibility in terms of scaling enterprise network requirements up or down.

Aryaka’s predictable pricing model lowers upfront capital expenses, and lowers the total cost of ownership for enterprises of all sizes! It eliminates the need to spend excessive amounts on network IT support costs, professional services, and expensive WAN bandwidth in order to enhance connectivity between branch offices and the headquarters. Furthermore, Aryaka’s economies of distribution help make IT spending predictable, a top concern of today’s C-level executives keen to avoid costly surprises in today’s New Normal Economy.

The company’s solution is architected to be a single-vendor solution, offering Application Acceleration, WAN Optimization, enterprise grade connectivity across the Aryaka network, and network-wide visibility through MyAryaka in one bundled solution, which means no more running around multiple vendors to pin-point and fix network problems. Its engineering expertise helps firms get on board with the network seamlessly, thereby allowing IT staff to focus on other core issues facing the business. This completely eliminates the need to purchase, install, test and maintain complex acceleration and optimization infrastructure.

Aryaka’s cloud-based solution means no end-of-life for software, no product obsolescence, no end-of-sales or support, and no different release compatibility issues. The software on the network is always up to date with the latest release. “Our fast and easy-to-understand technology makes the WAN a safe, fast, and reliable place to conduct business. This simplicity drives higher levels of employee productivity, making businesses more competitive and profitable,” says Gupta. Unlike MPLS networks that transfer data in clear text, Aryaka deploys IPSEC that encrypts every part of the data that is transferred over its network.”

But the greatest advantage Aryaka brings is the reduction in time to deployment unlike MPLS that requires a minimum of six months. For one of Aryaka’s customer, a global firm with offices in the U.S., India and EMEA, it set up the entire network running live in just two hours.

Additionally, the company provides customers with increased visibility and control via a personalized dashboard through which it can monitor all activities. The MyAryaka customer portal offers customers tremendous hands-on visibility and control of their network. It allows them to order network access to branch offices with the simple click of a mouse. Self-service provisioning allows branches around the world to setup acceleration functions without the presence of sales engineers or systems integrators. Once provisioned, the customer can access a variety of reports, such as bandwidth usage, LAN/WAN bandwidth utilization, and latency reduction, to name a few. These reports can be viewed per location, per link, per server-host or per port.

Customers can track performance and availability of all branches and applications using the ‘CIO View’. The customer portal also displays news feeds on SLA compliance, customer support tracking, and billing information. The Network Operations System (NOS) is architected with security, scalability, and self-service as key design points and supports direct and indirect (reseller) customers.

With such a wide berth of facilities provided by such an optimization solution, it’s no wonder the company has turned the heads of analysts, the media and customers .

“Aryaka is taking what has traditionally been a hardware play and turning it into a service, and, on top of that, they’re providing the connectivity — all in a single solution,” says Bojan Simic, principal analyst, TRAC Research. This approach, Simic adds, gives organizations more flexibility in today’s virtual and hybrid network environments. “It is easier to deploy and manage than the box-based model we’re seeing at the core of the other major players’ strategies.”

The company was recently awarded the “Product Innovation of the Year” in WAN optimization by Frost and Sullivan in 2010. “Key to Aryaka’s leadership in WAN optimization is a network design that allows customers to overcome the often severe ramp-up times and ‘exorbitant’ network investment required to deploy WAN optimization,” notes, Zeff Ibrahim, Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst. “By enforcing cost containment and rapid time-to-productivity, Aryaka opens WAN optimization to the vastly underserved midmarket. It’s a truly disruptive attack on the status quo,” he adds.

The Billion-Dollar Opportunity
Today, there are about eight million branch offices across the world that can be optimized, most of which are in the top 20 GDP countries. Of the eight million branch offices, in the last 10 years, all the dozen WAN optimization box-based vendors have managed to deploy only 300,000 boxes till date which translates into less than five percent penetration. The remaining 95 percent companies are still out in the market operating without a WAN optimization solution. Why? Because the existing solutions are so costly, and complex to manage.

The recent Gartner report states that in the last five years, WAN optimization market has exploded from $700 million in 2006 to an expected $1.6 billion market in 2011. Hence, just the WAN optimization side of the market is a multi-billion dollar business existing and growing market with just five percent penetration. “This is just one piece of the market and what we do at Aryaka is WAN optimization along with the network. The MPLS market itself is $10 billion market. So we are in the sweet spot to grab a share of both the pies,” says Gupta.

“Aryaka immediately caught our attention since there is pent-up demand for cloud-based solutions that are faster and easier to deploy than equipment, and allow the avoidance of capital expenditure, important in today’s economy. Gartner recognized Aryaka Networks as a ‘Cool Vendor’ in ‘Enterprise Communications and Network Services’ by Gartner Research in 2011. According to the Gartner report, “Aryaka is cool because it has developed a comprehensive set of optimization features that work as a business-class WAN services overlay to reduce or eliminate the need for distributed WAN optimization appliances in each branch office.” Aryaka figured out how to turn the WAN into a LAN,” says Lydia Leong, Research Vice-President for Gartner’s Technology and Services Provider Group.

Already riding high with over 20 deployed customers, the company is quickly lining up a large number of prospective clients as well. And unlike Speedera, which just catered to the top 1,000 websites/internet players, the market for Aryaka is domain neutral. From manufacturing to KPO/BPO, software companies to BFSI segment, the entire enterprise segment is a playground for Aryaka.

Nexus Venture Partners’ Sandeep Singhal believes the global relevance of Aryaka’s platform could make it a large company in two years. The venture firm along with Trinity Ventures, Mohr Davidow Ventures and Stanford University invested $14 million in Series A funding round.

Today, with a strong team of 100 between the U.S and India offices, award-winning and patent-pending technology and an ever growing list of customers, Gupta sees a hockey stick growth for the company. “Within six months of our launch, we have witnessed more prospective interests than what we can sustain. This is highly encouraging,” says Gupta.

In order to continue this growth, the company is looking at quickly scaling its sales and support team and eventually working with partners. “What we are looking at in the long run is partnering with AT&T and Sprints of the world and have them offer our smart and optimized network as part of their offering,” he adds.

“We are building a global platform,” says Gupta. “In India itself, there is a huge market opportunity considering we face bandwidth constraints and the same can be leverages in other parts of the world.”

In the next 10 years, Gupta envisions the use of Aryaka’s simple WAN optimization and networking technology to bridge the gap between companies and their distributed centers, increase market adoption and help reduce the digital divide that exists amongst the enterprises. Beyond being a faster and cheaper alternative, the Aryaka solution is ushering in the dawn of a new era of communication that was not possible with existing traditional, outdated technologies.

Despite the successful acquisition of Speedera, for Gupta, there remained an unfinished dream of building a disruptive company and taking it public but knowing his ability to disrupt a market need, this feat does not seem far from being achieved. After all, as Gupta notes, ‘impossible’ is just a word.

The Man with the Midas Touch
A seasoned entrepreneur, Ajit Gupta thrives on challenges, finding answers the unconventional way. When the first Internet based-companies emerged and found themselves plagued by the growing latency in delivering multimedia content over their networks and Gupta founded Speedera Networks, a content delivery network (CDN) company that emerged in the late 90s to advance technology applications for Internet communications and collaboration. Speedera became the first CDN to turn a profit. Under his leadership, Speedera became one of the fastest growing private companies in Silicon Valley and in the North American technology industry, as ranked by both Deloitte & Touche and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Speedera’s services were used by powerhouse clients such as American Eagle Outfitters, DoubleClick, Fox Broadcasting, Macromedia, NASA, McAfee, Sony Music, Nokia and Yahoo Japan. The company had key partnerships with Hewlett-Packard, British Telecomm, Japan’s Softbank Broadmedia, and VSNL.

In 2004, he successfully launched Speedera India to drive the company’s accelerated global expansion and follow-the-sun support strategy. The company was acquired in 2005 by Akamai (NASDAQ: AKAM) for a stock transaction worth more than $500 million within a year.

Three years later Gupta continued his winning streak by founding Aryaka, providing a solution to the WAN optimization woes of fast-growing global companies. Touted as the game changer in the WAN optimization space, the company has already secured nearly 20 customers in its early stages and is already earning awards and accolades from the analysts and enterprises alike.

So what makes him tick? Those who know Gupta personally vouch for his success to his ability to look beyond the obvious and out of box approach to solutions. Be it finding innovative solutions for the pain points existing in the industry or simply motivating his team, Gupta has been known for his out of box ideas. One of the fondest memories of his earlier team at Speedera remains a trip where the company took the entire team from U.S. and India and their family to Hawaii, a feat he hopes to repeat in Aryaka.

With over 25 years of experience in management, sales, support and professional services with stints at Oracle, Sybase and Resonate, Gupta owns 12 patents to his name for technology that brings together content delivery and global traffic management. Well-known among his industry peers, Gupta has been a speaker at a number of key conferences around the world, including the Red Herring and TiEcon conferences, Cloud Connect, Kagan Digital Media Summits, Datacenter Ventures events, Streaming Media conferences, and other popular trade shows and exhibitions. He is also a founding board member of the IIT-Roorkee Heritage Fund. An undergraduate in electrical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee, India, he also holds a graduate degree in electrical engineering from the University of Alabama.

Today riding on the success of Speedera and Aryaka and solving the challenges of the millions of companies across the world, Gupta one day hopes to put this unconventional bent of mind to find a solution to one of his personal everyday challenges — a way to be able to put a cover for a car, single handedly, in a hassle-free manner.