Software-defined Networking (SDN) represents the third epoch in modern networking. Like every great revolution in the annals of the tech industry, the seeds of revolution are being rooted outside the walled gardens of the incumbents. This article, published in NetworkWorld by Lightspeed venture partner Arif Janmohamed, does an excellent job of illustrating this point and is worth a read.
Last week, Pertino participated as an exhibitor and presenter at the 3rd Annual Open Networking Summit in Santa Clara, CA. The show, which highlighted this year’s developments in Software-Defined Networking (SDN), hosted over 1,600 networking pros for three days. Apparently, when you throw a networking party in the heart of Silicon Valley, the Fire Marshall has to show up and turn people away (no kidding!). The expo floor and the conference sessions were all packed.
I was on-duty at the Pertino booth for three days, hosting customers, press, analysts, and yes, even other vendors – and I was able to meet with IT professionals from all kinds of industries. Universities, carriers, managed service providers, outsourced IT, and lots of networking researchers were in attendance, all seeking to better understand the state of SDN.
From my perspective, the key takeaway from this year’s ONS was this: SDN is still evolving… and still widely misunderstood. And I think that’s as it should be with a set of technologies this young. Even the objectives of SDN are ambiguous to many; the target customers still look to SDN in hopes of saving money, saving time, and accelerating service delivery.
However, everyone seems to agree on one definitive characteristic of SDN, albeit an abbreviated one: separation of control and data forwarding planes. For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, the control plane exists as software (in the SDN world) that controls the relationship between a network consumer (man or machine), their associated policies, and the corresponding flow of traffic across the data plane. Notice I didn’t say “route” traffic – as SDN is not a replacement for core IP routing functions. The data plane is the actual “packet path” between networked devices. A data plane is typically comprised of a set of premise or cloud-based virtual switches that direct the flow of traffic within a control plane’s span of control. The promise of the SDN data plane is that it supports a multi-tenant, multi-virtual network architecture and uses controller intelligence to eliminate topological and port-level configurations.
It may be that the concept of control and data planes was shared across all emerging SDN vendors, but the application of those ideas remains really diverse!
Most of the SDN vendors at ONS were heavily focused on the datacenter. Vendors tout the SDN as the long-awaited answer to providing scalable network virtualization, slicing, and dynamic and elastic connectivity to virtual machine environments as they spin up and down within a datacenter. This is a key technology for folks like Amazon, Rackspace, 8x8, and other hosting providers, who are constantly battling the growth of customers’ virtual machines in their datacenters.
Pertino’s story at ONS provided a stark contrast against the din of datacenter solutions. We were kind of the “odd man out.” And it was my job to explain that difference to people expecting “traditional” datacenter SDN form all the vendors at the show. The difference is this: Pertino uses the concepts of SDN to connect people and computers across the WAN, not just virtual machines inside data centers. I was calling it “A new way to WAN” – but people weren’t quite getting it.
So I tried “Networks-as-a-Service” (NaaS. As in: “I love Pertino! It’s so very NaaS…”) Some lightbulbs went off over people’s heads as they realized that Pertino provides instant, secure networks, with no hardware, no hassle, and no need for even a single IP address to configure.
But when I explained that Pertino provides “overlay networks” to build secure, private connections across the public Internet, people started asking for demos. “Can I use this to connect to my mom’s PC for remote troubleshooting? Can I connect to my home machine from work to transfer files? Can I use this for HQ access for all my remote workers? Precisely – that’s the “new way to WAN”. We see solutions to problems outside the datacenter. We connect people to other people. We connect all kinds of machines to the other machines, files, applications, and services people need to get things done. Are you using Pertino to connect your machines? What for? Whom for? Let us know and share your thoughts!
With the recent announcement of the Open Daylight consortium, headed by Cisco, Juniper and IBM, I can’t help but ask... Where will the real innovations in networking come from in the next few years? The big guys have had their hands on the wheel for the last decade, and by most accounts, those were the most boring years in networking history. What? MPLS? That’s all you’ve got? But finally, networking has become exciting again. There are new problems to solve and a wave of new tools and services to bring them to market.
While the network guys were napping, the world changed. VMware came along and transformed computing forever with mass virtualization. AWS figured out how to package that power as a service in the form of virtual hosting. Folks like Heroku built on top of AWS to make deployment of production applications a breeze. The barrier to developing new services plummeted and began a feedback loop of new technology. Services like GitHub became economically viable, and even hosted open source tools that were then used to build even more services. Innovation ensued.
To give credit where credit is due, none of this would have been possible without Cisco and Juniper. The Internet runs on the fast and reliable infrastructure that they built. But ironically, they are starting to hinder progress. That solid, reliable network just isn’t flexible enough to support the dynamic nature of this new computing model. We needed some innovation in networking and it just wasn’t going to come from the same old place. We need to set networking free. There were a few obvious reasons; they had the market locked up and didn’t really need to change, they had a huge installed base of products that they’d like to keep selling, and last but not least, they were stuck in the same mind-set that they had ten years ago. Enter SDN.
A new approach was indeed brewing in the labs of Stanford and 2010 was the time for it to blossom. Nicira and Big Switch emerged with a solution to the dynamic virtual network problem and a fresh perspective on how to build networks. They began with the data center, and now Pertino and others are extending that concept into the WAN. Building virtual overlay networks on top of the proven and reliable one - the transport network - and then extracting and centralizing the control plane so that unlimited compute power can be applied to high-level management and orchestration. The approach enables the rapid evolution of the entire stack. It’s software. It’s nimble. And it is fueled by the very service industry that it is helping. The feedback loop of innovation continues.
So now Cisco, Juniper and IBM have announced the Open Daylight SDN project. Real disruptive innovation from the big guys? Not quite. A quick peek under the hood reveals a whole bunch of Floodlight. Big Switch is the innovator in this crowd. The new-found motivation is understandable. And while the message may be noble, prematurely standardizing the entire stack will likely stifle innovation and put control of the future of open networks back on the hands of the big guys.
As we’ve seen with computing, the future of networking won’t come from the past.
I had a chance to spend some quality time with SpiceHead Scott Alan Miller a couple of weeks ago (OK, we were downing a few Kamikazes together) -- this guy is one smart IT dude. Here's one of Scott's recent blog posts on using Pertino with Active Directory...
To Mark Kleine (aka mpk) and all of the SpiceHeads who continue to contribute to Pertino's early success, we thank you! Together, you have a powerful voice that is being carried all the way to Silicon Valley and beyond as evidenced by the following article...
Launched by Spiceworks, Pertino Raises $20M for Cloud Networking
March 07, 2013
(c) 2013 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
Small businesses, with their small, overworked IT staff, need access to good new technology--and since their staff members have little time or money to go to technology conferences, they need to be able to learn it on the job.
Technology vendors have been working for years to reach these people, who may live in small towns or work at companies with minimal websites but whose numbers, in the millions, make them part of a big market.
Now two venture-backed companies--cloud networking startup Pertino Inc. and the IT social network Spiceworks Inc.--have banded together to solve this problem, in a relationship that the companies say continues to bring benefits to both.
Pertino, which emerged from stealth mode last month and on Thursday announced a $20 million Series B funding round led by Jafco Ventures, made Spiceworks an integral part of its strategy, beta-testing its cloud-networking software on 250 members of the Spiceworks community, who are known as Spiceheads, until they were satisfied that it worked. The software is now in limited release.
Using Pertino, anybody can create a global network with no specialized network hardware or virtual private networks. Instead, they type in their name and password and a network name and invite others to join by sending them a web link. When they're done with the network, they turn it off. Pertino works now on Windows 7, but support for Macintosh, other Windows clients and mobile devices is coming soon.
"The real key question we came up with is how do you build a network where everyone's always mobile and half the mobile resources are in the cloud. It changes the way you think about networks," said Pertino co-founder and Chief Executive Craig Elliott, adding that the software is especially appealing to small businesses.
Spiceworks, which Pertino found on its own, was a part of the startup's initial pitch to venture capitalists, Mr. Elliott said, because his team wanted to allay any concerns about Pertino's ability to reach small businesses.
As for Spiceworks, it found the relationship so fruitful that it's preparing to launch other startups, according to Vice President of Marketing Jay Hallberg .
The Spiceworks network, which has over 2.4 million members and is adding 2,500 new members a day, has helped EMC Corp ., Dell Inc ., and other big technology companies launch products, but it's now starting to get referrals from venture capitalists to launch startups, Mr. Hallberg said. It created a private community for Pertino, which Pertino continues to use, and it's now creating marketing plans for other startups, arguing that it can cut startups' time to market at a lower cost.
Spiceworks does not pay Spiceheads to test products, but Mark Kleine, the IT manager at McCoy Tree Surgery in Norman, Okla., said he was happy to be asked. He gets free use of Pertino's software for a year, he said, and "in our industry, people in my shoes can't learn enough or quickly enough."
Usually, beta testers don't talk to each other, he said, but the Spiceheads did, and they were a tough but enthusiastic crowd, coming up with new suggestions every time something about Pertino's software didn't work. "I was amazed at how rapid the development was," he said.
Both Norwest Venture Partners Managing Director Matt Howard and Lightspeed Venture Partners Partner Barry Eggers, who co-led Pertino's $7.85 million Series A round and participated in the Series B round, said they would have invested in Pertino anyway, even without the Spiceworks relationship, because the technology is so disruptive.
Jafco Ventures General Partner Jeb Miller said his firm was fortunate to win the right to lead Pertino's Series B round over more than a dozen other firms. "The world is moving toward cloud-based applications and services," he said.
Pertino has now raised $28.85 million, while Spiceworks has raised over $50 million. Valuations are not disclosed.
Back when Pertino was first getting started, my co-founders and I were sitting around sharing our visions and aspirations for the company when a common theme emerged – create a technology that helps "democratize" IT for the over 50 million SMBs around the world. We called this ideal "big IT for SMBs" and last week we moved two steps closer to realizing it with the public launch of the Pertino cloud network service and the appointment of J.P. Allen to our newly-formed executive advisory board.
J.P. Allen is an Associate Professor of Information Systems at the School of Management, University of San Francisco and was a former faculty member at Purdue University and the University of Cambridge. He was the first Department Chair of USF’s Technology, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship department. JP’s education and research work is dedicated to understanding how business is being transformed by digital technology. His current research focuses on new internet-based business practices, using open source platforms, ‘web 2.0′ style content communities, software-as-a-service, and virtual infrastructure (such as ‘cloud computing’). He is one sharp cookie and I hope you will enjoy his blog post Democratizing SMB Networking: Why I’m excited about Pertino.
When I went out to raise our first round of funding a year ago, investors loved the Pertino story right up to the point where we said "and we believe the right market for our revolutionary new way to network is small and medium businesses". Investors understand the well-worn path of launching new technology into large enterprises, but SMBs are more of a mystery to them. Luckily, I found two top-tier, forward-thinking investors in Norwest Venture Partners and Lightspeed Venture Partners who recognized the huge potential of the SMB market and trusted that my team would find an effective way to reach it.
Since then, Pertino has partnered with Spiceworks in a grand experiment that will help shape the future of SMB IT innovation. Over eight months ago, we worked closely with Spiceworks' executives and our account team to devise a strategy for incubating and launching Pertino within the Spiceworks community of 2.4 million IT pros by leveraging their social interaction platform. On February 12th we witnessed the culmination of this strategy by publicly announcing the Pertino cloud network service.
The results of our Spiceworks experiment have exceeded my expectations and will undoubtedly blaze a trial for other startups focused on bring IT innovation to SMBs. We started with a 20-company private beta program and that grew into a community-exclusive public beta where 250 "Spiceheads" build and tested Pertino cloud networks. Along the way we received incredible, first-hand feedback and insights from IT pros on everything from our network-as-a-service offering and service delivery process to messaging and positioning, use cases, pricing, website, and company policies. I can think of no other way to gain such extensive, concise and timely customer engagement. On more than one occasion, we went from conversations with IT pros about certain issues to deploying new software that addressed them within a couple of days. Such product cycles can often take weeks or months.
To our friends at Spiceworks and all of the Spiceheads who have played a key role if getting us to this point, I thank you. Together we are helping shape the future of IT innovation for SMBs.
Please read the following post by Jay Hallberg, Spiceworks Co-founder and Vice President of Marketing, where he shares his perspectives on this "grand experiment" and the broader implications for the Spiceworks community...
Venture capital is the fuel of innovation and this position in the emerging technology supply chain affords them a unique perspective. Arif Janmohamed, partner at Pertino investor Lightspeed Venture Partners, shares his in the following blog post...
We were all reminded once again this week of the devastation that can occur when the sky unleashes its fury. While my thoughts and prayers are with the victims of Hurricane Sandy, today's blog post is about the ramifications of natural disasters on small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) and the role the cloud can play in helping to keep businesses up and running.
When it comes to natural disasters, SMBs are in the dichotomous position of being the most vulnerable and the least prepared. Most vulnerable because their enterprises tend to be more regionally concentrated with offices, plants, warehouses, call centers, and datacenters in relatively close proximity. Least prepared, not because they don't value disaster recovery and business continuity planning, but because implementing and maintaining DR/BC plans can be exceedingly expensive, time intensive, and requires specialized experience.
During disasters, IT teams become first responders tasked with trying to keep the business operational. They often have to deal with a wide range of issues, including keeping back-up power running, physically relocating servers, and grappling with an entire workforce that suddenly needs secure remote access. For many organizations, cloud services can offer IT teams relief in terms of prevention and rapid recovery of infrastructure outages.
Many of today's trusted cloud service providers offer resilient, geographically diverse computing services that are ideal for mission-critical application and file servers. For on-premise servers, their automate instance and image provisioning makes it possible to stage servers in advance or rapidly migrate them when disaster hits. This perspective is shared by Greg Bailey, director and cloud computing lead at Deloitte Consulting LLP , who recently authored an article on how Hurricane Sandy builds a case for more government agencies to migrate to the cloud (See http://fcw.com/articles/2012/10/31/sandy-cloud.aspx).
Pertino's cloud-based, wide-area network service overlays multiple compute systems within cloud service providers and across multiple geographies to deliver always-on access to company networks from anywhere. As such, Pertino solves the vexing challenge of providing temporarily displaced employees, who might be stranded at home, hotels, airports, and with relatives, with secure access to the IT resources they need to keep the business running.
Because the Pertino cloud network requires no hardware and makes onboarding employees as simple as friending someone on Facebook, connectivity can be instantly expanded from a handful of everyday mobile workers to an entire company in a matter of minutes. All an employee needs is Internet access – such as a public WIFI or 3G/4G connection – and within a few clicks they are on the company network from anywhere. Since the tedious process of installing and using a traditional VPN client is eliminated, end user calls to an already swamped IT team are alleviated.
One thing is for sure; the sky will open-up and wreak havoc again in the future. The next time it does, SMB IT organizations can look to the cloud to find instant relief for their IT disruptions.
If you ever want to witness the pride and plight of the SMB IT pro, you need to attend SpiceWorld. If you're not familiar with SpiceWorld, you first need to understand the movement that is Spiceworks.
The Spiceworks community is a band of 2.2 million IT pros spread across six continents who are bound together by free IT management software and, more importantly, a mission-specific social interaction platform. While free IT tools are nice, what really makes Spiceworks tick is the zealous community of IT pros who are affectionately called Spiceheads. They come together as a collective of IT intelligence and experience to help solve problems, provide insight on products, share vendors experiences, and exchange bacon-laden words of wisdom.
Now, back to SpiceWorld. This was my first time attending the semi-annual Spiceworks conclave which was precipitated by the community launch of Pertino's beta program. As a first-timer, I would describe it as part SMB IT revival and part user group meeting. The Pertino team had a chance to meet with numerous Spiceheads and members of the Spiceworks executive team and here are a few of my take-aways...
- Spiceworks fundamentally changes the approach and economics of reaching the SMB IT marketplace
- There are a bunch of really bright SMB IT pros out there who are shackled by limited time, resources, and budget
- Selling into the SMB IT space means you are dealing with an attention economy -- it's the scarce currency they all share
- SMB IT environments straddle legacy and emerging equipment and infrastructure -- XP on one hand, cloud on the other
- Spiceworks will further enhance market efficiency in the future as it evolves towards more of a community-driven marketplace
- If Spiceworks can deliver a more efficient path to market, I foresee a new generation of tech companies focused on easing the plight of SMB IT pros with Pertino first in line
The following links provide more details on the launch of our beta program in the Spiceworks community...
The difference between small business and big business has always been more than the number of employees and the dollars of revenue. Big businesses have information technology (IT) infrastructure that allows them to better collaborate, analyze data and make complex decisions.
Only big businesses are sophisticated and worldly, right?
Well guess what? To compete today everybody is being forced to play the same game. Suddenly, being a small consulting practice, a regional insurance broker or a manufacturing company in the Midwest is not as simple as it used to be. In fact, it’s gotten a lot more interesting.
If you’re a small business today, it’s inevitable that your sales channels and supply chains will reach across the country, if not around the world. The key to managing this business sprawl is teamwork and access to data. Data has to be accurate and real time and teams have to always be in touch no matter where they are and the time of day. Achieving this is a lot more challenging as employees and business activities become more far-flung.
Here’s the rub. Big business IT, and especially networks, are too complex and costly for small businesses to build and manage. While small businesses need big business IT capabilities, they have to be…
And, of course, affordable. We are small business people, right? That’s one thing we all have in common.
A new generation of cloud-based IT services are on the way that will do just that. I’m not talking about a mish-mash of consumer apps that are hard to manage and lack business-level security. I mean big business-like IT capabilities that use the power of cloud computing to make them available and affordable to ANY business. Now access to IT technology doesn’t have to keep you from growing business.
You may be a small business today, but that no longer means you can’t play the game like the big boys.