Viptela co-founder looks beyond SD-WAN with Graphiant

Khalid Raza, the former Cisco engineer who helped launch the SD-WAN market as co-founder and CTO of Viptela a decade ago, is once again looking to disrupt the enterprise networking landscape. His latest venture, called Graphiant, is peddling a network-as-a-service product which is based around a proprietary stateless core.

Founded in 2020, Graphiant emerged from stealth this week with $33.5 million in funding from former Viptela investor Sequoia Capital as well as private equity firms Two Bear Capital and Atlantic Bridge. Raza, who is Graphiant’s CEO, told Fierce that means it has plenty of gas in the tank for the next year as it implements a go-to-market strategy targeting enterprises across the financial services, healthcare, manufacturing and retail segments. All told, it’s chasing what it sees as a $68 billion to $70 billion opportunity to supplant solutions across the MPLS, SD-WAN, interconnect and cloud onramp markets.

While it took time for Viptela to gain momentum in the enterprise market with SD-WAN, VP of Sales and Marketing Matt Krieg said Graphiant hopes to make progress much more quickly. That’s because “the difference now is the enterprise understands there’s a problem. We’re not explaining the problem” like Viptela had to do with SD-WAN, Krieg said. And that problem, Raza added, is a business environment that is no longer predictable and connectivity solutions that are too complex.

“Two things became very clear to me. Number one, we need to create that private network over these co-location facilities so we can give them the enterprise-grade reliability because it’s predictable, we give them the privacy and we give them the security,” Raza said. “And, number two, it has to be as a service…It has happened to compute and storage, why is it not happening to networking?”

According to Raza, Graphiant’s birth closely mirrored Viptela’s. Back in 2010, when he was still in his original position at Cisco, Raza said he advocated internally for development of a networking product to replace MPLS. The company allegedly ignored him and he later went off to start Viptela to solve the problem. Viptela was subsequently acquired by Cisco in 2017 for $610 million. Raza stayed on and in 2018 once again agitated for change. After allegedly being ignored again, he left in 2020 to create Graphiant.

At the heart of Graphiant’s pitch is its so-called “stateless core,” which acts as the hub to which each endpoint is connected and through which all traffic is routed. Chief Product Officer Ali Shaikh told Fierce Graphiant developed a new protocol for its core which allows it to embed metadata into the traffic which programs its path across the network. This allows traffic to be encrypted end-to-end for security and means Graphiant does not store any customer information in transit to ensure privacy.

Graphiant also offers gateways for cloud interconnection, on-premises edge endpoints and a portal for configuration and management. In terms of total cost of ownership, Krieg said Graphiant can offer up to 67% savings over three years compared to networking solutions offered by traditional providers.

Krieg added the company is pursuing four routes to market: partnerships with value added resellers or system integrators, partnerships with managed service providers, alliances with equipment OEMs and availability on cloud marketplaces.

In a blog, Futuriom analyst Scott Raynovich said Graphiant’s launch “is likely to kick up the conversation about how IP routing will evolve with the cloud,” noting “MPLS can't be easily configured to operate among hybrid networks or cloud services.”

Perhaps feeling the heat, Cisco this week updated its SD-WAN offering, adding end-to-end encryption for site-to-cloud traffic, a new Multi-Region Fabric and a new gateway for remote workers.