This startup says it can glue all your networks together in the cloud

Or some approximation of that

Multi-cloud networking startup Alkira has decided it wants to be a network-as-a-service (NaaS) provider with the launch of its cloud area networking platform this week.

The upstart, founded in 2018, claims this platform lets customers automatically stitch together multiple on-prem datacenters, branches, and cloud workloads at the press of a button.

The subscription is the latest evolution of Alkira’s multi-cloud platform introduced back in 2020. The service integrates with all major public cloud providers – Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, and Oracle Cloud – and automates the provisioning and management of their network services.

"Cloud was supposed to make life easier, but it has grown more complex as customers struggle to manage islands of networking, each with its own rules and tools. They thought they were buying agility, but what arrived was a mountain of complexity and technical debt," Alkira CEO Amir Khan argued in a canned statement.

He argues that today's network architectures were never designed for the level of change that the cloud has introduced. "Until now, enterprises had a choice between shoehorning last-generation technology into the cloud or using orchestration tools to hide the complexity."

Piggybacking on the cloud

Rather than building its own private network as vendors like Aryaka (yes, Aryaka) have done, or rely on telecommunications providers like many SD-WAN vendors, Alkira piggybacks on the global network backbones that interconnect the public cloud providers' datacenters.

For example, if a customer needs to connect a workload running in AWS to another running in GCP or Azure, the platform automatically configures and connects the virtual networks on each the respective public clouds.

However, since launching the platform, Alkira has introduced several additional capabilities including support for branch-to-branch communications and hybrid-cloud networking for customers with a mix of on-prem and cloud infrastructure.

The company has also announced integrations with several large security and network vendors – like Cisco, Fortinet, Check Point, Palo Alto Networks, and Aruba – to enable customers to deploy the service alongside their existing infrastructure.

Alkira's Cloud Area Networks service consolidates these capabilities into a single platform, and adds support for Teraform and REST APIs for integration with customers' continuous integration and continuous delivery pipelines.

Altogether, this functionality has helped the multi-cloud startup secure multiple high-profile contracts with the likes of Warner Music Group, Tekion, and Koch Industries. The latter was one of the company's largest financiers and has deployed Alkira's services to connect its more than 700 locations around the world.

Multi-cloud transport heats up

However, Alkira is far from the only vendor vying for a piece of the NaaS market. The business faces competition from the many of the same cloud providers on which its service relies.

As more enterprise workloads have made their way into the cloud, AWS, GCP, and Azure have all launched cloud transport services for customers that need to connect workloads running across multiple regions. Many of these services also support using their private networks as an alternative to multi-protocol label switching (MPLS) or broadband connectivity for branch-to-branch communications. Amazon's Cloud WAN service introduced late last year is one such example.

Meanwhile, Alkira also faces competition from traditional SD-WAN vendors like Cisco and Fortinet, which have leaned on these cloud transport services as a means for extending network architectures customers are ready familiar with to multi-cloud networking use cases. ®

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