SD-WAN vendor Viptela names Cisco veteran Akkiraju as CEO

SD-WAN vendor Viptela has named Cisco veteran Praveen Akkiraju as its new CEO, taking over the reins from Amir Khan, co-founder and current CEO.

Khan will continue to play an active role in the company as president and as a member of Viptela’s board.

Akkiraju comes to Viptela from VCE, a division Dell EMC, where he served as CEO. During his tenure at VCE, Akkiraju drove the converged infrastructure provider to obtain the number 1 market share position, while tripling revenues to $2.1 billion and achieving profitability.

But Akkiraju is best known for his time at Cisco. He spent more than 19 years at Cisco building and leading every one of the company’s routing platform businesses.

RELATED: Viptela snags $75M in financing, dedicates funds SD-WAN R&D, customer demands

He spent his last role at Cisco serving as the senior vice president and general manager of routing vendor’s Enterprise Networking group, where he rebuilt the strategy and business for the multi-billion dollar ISR and ASR product portfolio.

Akkiraju told FierceTelecom that as service providers and businesses adopt a cloud strategy, Viptela offered him an opportunity to lead a company that was helping to drive that transition.

“When I looked at the portfolio of companies in this space, Viptela stood out as having the technology to solve that fundamental problem of how do you define that next-generation network fabric that can connect users at the edge of the network to the cloud,” Akkiraju  said. “That was my journey in how I got to Viptela.”

SD-WAN is an enabler

Having spent 19 years at Cisco building router platforms and then the past four years at VCE, Akkiraju envisions how he can apply these learnings to guide the next phase of growth at Viptela.

While SD-WAN offers a number of benefits to service providers and businesses in terms of new revenue streams and the ability to use lower cost network access facilities, the service can also be an enabler for other services.

Some of those services could include security, connect users to applications in either a data center or are in an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) platform like Microsoft Azure, or in a SaaS cloud.

“We need to help customers connect to these services in a seamless, efficient, and policy-driven way, which I think where the market is moving towards and where the significant opportunity is,” Akkiraju said.

What’s been resonating with customers is Viptela’s cloud-based approach. Besides winning large deals with Verizon and Singtel, the vendor has garnered deals in a number of high profile verticals such as banking, retail, financial and health care.

“Most of these customer wins are in the order of thousands of endpoints being managed from the cloud,” Akkiraju said. “We have the foundational elements of a pretty scalable fabric that’s managed from the cloud and my goal is to accelerate that value proposition of connecting users at the edge to the cloud in a seamless way.”

The SD-WAN market may have become crowded with a number of players, but Viptela's movement is well-timed. A recent Gartner report revealed that the SD-WAN segment will grow 57% through 2020.

“There are not many market segments that are growing north of 50% that are available to service providers,” Akkiraju said. “I am excited about leveraging my experience working with service providers and leveraging what we have at Viptela to see if we can go to the market with a compelling market proposition.”

Validation growing

Viptela has continued to evolve as a company and the new leadership under Akkiraju will advance the company to the next stage. Having already won SD-WAN deals with Verizon and Singtel, Viptela raised $75 million in a Series C round of funding.

At the same time, it’s hard not to notice the growing base of vendors and service providers developing, or is in the midst of developing, new SD-WAN services and features.

SD-WAN has been attractive area for other telecom executives to lead. Fellow Cisco alum Kelly Ahuja recently joined SD-WAN vendor Versa, for example.   

“The ultimate acknowledgement of SD-WAN is when everything starts to get re-branded as SD-WAN,” Akkiraju said. “We’re seeing everyone from network vendors, voice vendors, and WAN optimization vendors offer an SD-WAN solution so it’s a validation of the market.”

Mike Fratto, research director of enterprise networking and data center technology for Current Analysis, agreed and added that he expects to see more SD-WAN innovations from service providers and vendors in 2017.

“Many MSPs are looking to offer SD-WAN from more than one vendor, and they are looking at providing connectivity services across SD-WAN platforms,” Fratto said. “The next year or two we will likely see a lot of new capabilities from MSPs and SD-WAN vendors alike.”