Alkira Exits Stealth, Releases First On-Demand Multi-Cloud Network

eWEEK COMPANY ANALYSIS: Former Viptela founders aim to deliver true network as a service.


This week startup Alkira emerged from stealth mode. The company launched an on demand multi-cloud network as-a-service that lets you deploy and provision a secure, unified global cloud network infrastructure, in under an hour. The founders of the company are two people that are no strangers to network innovation as they were the founders of one of the SD-WAN Pioneers, Viptela, which was acquired by Cisco for $610M in 2017.

Amir Khan is the founder and CEO of Alkira; he held the same roles at Viptela. His brother, Atif Khan, a routing jockey, built some of the largest networks in the world and was on the Viptela founding team. The mission of the new company is to simplify the challenges of connecting and operating multi-cloud networks with a unified on demand network that supports integrated services, visibility and governance. The Alkira Cloud Services Exchange (CSX) went live today.

Khans have a track record of success

After leaving Viptela, Amir recognized that the cloud journey was hampered by complexity that left users holding the bag. “Businesses and IT organizations had to accommodate a mobile workforce and dynamic applications in the cloud securely, and on demand,” he said. “Alkira is reinventing cloud networking, delivering as-a-service consumption, with automated scaling, agility and network resiliency critical for today’s business environment. It takes customers to, and across clouds, securely, in minutes and enables enterprise customers to connect anywhere, anytime, providing businesses the agility they need to navigate through volatile market conditions.”

Cloud-provider tools are fine but don’t work cross clouds

Alkira is addressing a fundamental challenge with moving to the cloud, which is that every cloud has its own automation tools, and Microsoft’s don’t work with Amazon’s or Google’s. I’ve talked to many companies that have tried to standardize on a single cloud, but that’s impossible to do for companies of any size. Despite what the cloud provider says, there isn’t one that’s better than the other. It depends on workload, region, network and a number of other factors. The cloud provider tools are generally very good but are limited to that specific environment.

The challenges are compounded with the necessity to understand the different networking architectures, tools kits and limitations of each cloud provider. “The beauty is that we do it one way across all clouds. So you don't have to understand any of them,” Atif said.

Alkira brings AWS-like simplicity to the network

Alkira is targeting medium and large enterprise customers and service providers requiring:

  • resilient network connectivity from on-premises to clouds including Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP) and Microsoft Azure;
  • cloud-to-cloud connectivity within and across regions;
  • regionalized cloud-to-internet or SaaS connectivity;
  • integration of a global multi-cloud network services suite including security, global load balancing, and IP address management;
  • a rich operations suite including a unified visibility dashboard; and
  • granular billing for multi-cloud network and services for better financial management and control.

Alkira CSX presents the organization with a simple, agile and highly resilient network. The network service scales up and down based on customer requirements and is delivered like any other app. It’s a fully routed, segmented policy-driven network with full governance and end-to-end capabilities across multiple clouds which elastically scale to meet a business’ needs. It’s true network-as-a-service .

The heart of Alkira is its Cloud Exchange Points

At the heart of Alkira CSX are Alkira Cloud Exchange Points (CXPs), which Atif described as “globally distributed multi-cloud points of presence, which provide a full routing stack and network services capabilities.” These CXPs natively leverage cloud capabilities, when and where needed. Alkira CXPs provide optimized, elastic and highly available single point of on-boarding into the entire customer multi-cloud environment. The architecture has built-in scale, availability, redundancy, and end-to-end cloud independent network segmentation. This allows customers to globally segregate different types of traffic, move compliance workloads to the cloud while accelerating their cloud adoption.

Alkira allows organizations to turn networking for the cloud from a business inhibitor to a business enabler, while providing the following benefits:

  • faster time to cloud reduces deployment time to minutes in full alignment with business SLAs;
  • high bandwidth, low latency network from sites to public clouds (AWS, Microsoft Azure and GCP) and SaaS/Internet applications, and between multiple public clouds or multiple regions of the same public cloud;
  • eliminates cloud-specific limitations by building a multi-region, multi-cloud overlay network, leveraging cloud-native and advanced routing and security constructs;
  • global security policy enforcement by leveraging firewalls of choice and global symmetric traffic steering;
  • end-to-end segmentation between sites, public cloud instances, cloud network services and SaaS/Internet exit points for compliance, sensitive and secure applications;
  • elasticity to accommodate on-demand capacity, e.g. periodic high-volume data transfers, seasonal retail customer uptake, etc.;
  • high availability and resiliency backed up by a high uptime service guarantee;
  • full visibility to eliminate operational blind spots and improve day-2 operations; and
  • on-demand/subscription consumption cost model to ensure customers are only charged for the network and network services resources they actually consume.

Alkira enables customers to have a standardized and unified approach to deploying and provisioning cloud network connectivity, network services, policy management, visibility and governance. Customers no longer need to study and work around the different networking constructs and dependencies of each cloud. Alkira CSX portal offers an intuitive design canvas with dramatically simplified graphic modeling of the global multi-cloud network, including network services, network segmentation and visualization of intent-based policy applied across multi-cloud networks.

Alkira’s network services marketplace enables organizations to easily choose and insert Alkira or third-party network services into their multi-cloud network and fully automates the provisioning and the lifecycle of the network services. Organizations can leverage their existing third-party licenses for the network services (bring your own license or BYOL) or opt for the pay-as-you-go (PAYG) approach.

When leveraging Alkira's entire solution, organizations can choose between the pay-as-you-go (PAYG) and subscription models or mix the two:

  • The pay-as-you-go model offers deployment flexibility of paying for only the provisioned service elements, such as geographic locations, connectivity to remote sites, connectivity to cloud instances, network services and the consumed network traffic, for as long as these elements stay provisioned.
  • The subscription model offers cost effectiveness based on committed target spend for the service, irrespective of the provisioned elements. Organizations can elastically expand network and network services capacity, while maintaining service level agreements (SLAs). Simplified provisioning leveraging Alkira’s virtual infrastructure, results in an overall lower total cost of ownership (TCO).

The Alkira system is certainly powerful, but the Kahns have built an interface that’s very cloudlike in that’s easy to deploy and operate. Customers will have a network that’s agile as the rest of their cloud infrastructure and, as is the case for cloud native tools, no certified training is required.

Zeus Kerravala is an eWEEK regular contributor and the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. He spent 10 years at Yankee Group and prior to that held a number of corporate IT positions.