May 7, 2020
Every now and again someone comes along and shakes up the status quo. Startup Alkira is doing just that for multicloud networking. And the company will rely almost entirely on channel partners to sell and manage its technology.
Alkira: Some Re-‘Khan’ in Action
The names and faces behind Alkira will not come as a surprise to many in the indirect channel. Founders (and brothers) Amir Khan and Atif Khan are renowned for their work at Juniper Networks and for launching SD-WAN vendor Viptela, which Cisco acquired in 2017. At Alkira, Amir leads as president and CEO, and Atif serves as CTO.
Together, the Khan brothers have developed Cloud Services Exchange, or CSX. The platform lets enterprises – or, perhaps ideally, their managed service providers – administer multiple public clouds around the world without having to log in to each vendor’s interface. In essence, a user points, clicks and deploys a multicloud network in less than an hour, according to Alkira. For example, need to connect AWS to Google Cloud? Done with the click of a button.
Other capabilities include security, traffic segregation, load balancing, automated scaling and more. To enable its reach, Alkira works with PoPs throughout the world.
To date, multicloud networking technology has required a piecemeal approach, Amir Khan said in an interview with Channel Futures. IT teams and channel partners have had to stitch together virtual routers or firewall instances, he said. The entire infrastructure ends up patchy and labor-intensive.
Alkira’s Amir Khan
“We need to take a fresh look at automation and innovation so we can allow things like elastic scale of services from all aspects, whether connectivity or firewalls,” Khan said.
That’s what Alkira has done with CSX.
“We have built a very intelligent infrastructure which adapts to the requirements of the customers,” Khan said. “That’s where the industry is lagging.”
Alkira’s executive team is not alone in seeing CSX’s unique proposition. Three venture capital firms – Kleiner Perkins, Sequoia Capital and GV – so far have funded Alkira to the tune of $30 million. With that money in hand, Alkira has, as it announced on April 15, “emerged from stealth mode.”
‘We Understand What It Takes to Win Together’
To reiterate, Alkira will look to channel partners as its main sales outlet. Khan said MSPs, boutique firms, SIs, consultants, traditional VARs, and telecom master and subagents all fit the general profile for the types of partners Alkira seeks. Offering CSX gives partners a comprehensive cloud solution, Khan said.
“Networking has plateaued,” he said. “Partners need to figure out new ways to make money. So one of the attractive major areas to address is cloud.”
Danielle Kramer, head of sales at Alkira, agreed.
Alkira’s Danielle Kramer
“From a partner point of view, so many projects are bogged down by intense systems integration work. That really slows down the speed of delivery and value to customers. So to offer Alkira, lightning-fast, to provide secure connectivity to one or multiple clouds, is a huge breath of fresh air. There is incredible excitement from partners to make projects perform on schedule without a lot of laborious SI work, and a lot of excitement about adding Alkira in to their own managed service.”
While Alkira emerges from stealth mode and continues to design its channel strategy around multicloud networking, it also has an inside sales team. But that team does not compete with partners; rather, the internal and channel experts will sell CSX together “until channel becomes self-sufficient,” Khan said.
The Khan brothers’ track record at Viptela, which also primarily relied on the channel, speaks for itself. As a result, partners across the board will already feel comfortable joining forces with Alkira.
“We understand what it takes to win together rather than trying to win alone,” Khan said. “For us to reach the masses, we have to have a very strong partner ecosystem, and that’s what we are building.”
Many of the partner program details remain …
… in early stages. Kramer is meeting with master agents because she sees them as key to Alkira’s reach. Masters, she said, are “at the inflection of the buying cycle between connectivity and colocation, so this is the nexus of what they’re selling. It makes a lot of sense, the recurring revenue model.”
That said, Alkira might be selective about the partners it chooses to sell its multicloud networking technology.
“We’re focused on the ones who are more future-looking, more forward-looking in terms of the latest solutions,” Khan said.
Those who do come on board with Alkira, alongside current partners World Wide Technology, Nissho USA, EOS IT Solutions and Bridgepointe Solutions, will receive full presales support. Kramer and her team still are crafting many of the particulars, including formal training, and will update Channel Futures as details become available. Khan did say that because CSX “is so simple to consume,” the level of training required also is simple.
“That’s why we’re able to support so many more partners,” he said.
Kramer added that partner input will help determine Alkira’s additional approaches to the channel.
“We are in the early days, supporting every partner coming to register, and we have joint sales calls,” she said.
Meantime, Khan and Kramer both report positive reactions from potential partners when they demo CSX.
“Pretty much every single partner we’ve talked to is wowed by it,” Khan said. “It’s something the industry was not expecting. They were expecting incremental improvements — and this is way beyond their expectations.”
Kramer said she so far has heard no pushback.
“Usually when talking with the channel, they’ll come up with many reasons why it’s not good enough,” she said. “I haven’t heard that. It’s very obvious what problems [CSX] is solving and, from the partner perspective, this looks easy to them too.”
The Rise of Multicloud
To be sure, the use case for easy cloud networking looks like a no-brainer amid COVID-19. The virus is forcing organizations to roll out public, private and hybrid clouds to support a remote workforce for an unknown amount of time.
Accounting for that activity, research firm IDC is calling 2021 “the year of multicloud.” The firm predicts more than 90% of enterprises worldwide will rely on a mix of cloud environments by 2022. The heightened number of multicloud implementations by then, and throughout the pandemic, call for technology such as CSX. While Khan said Alkira is avoiding any special positioning or messaging related to COVID-19, he did say the company has seen “increased” interest since March.
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