Avi rises on smarter load balancing for the multi-cloud age

Silicon Valley-based Avi Networks is pushing hard

“If there was an area that hadn’t seen innovation for 10 years it was application delivery,” says Chandra Sekar, Avi Networks chief marketing officer. “The old hardware tools did not match the needs of modern applications.”

That yawning chasm is the raison d’être for Avi (the name is Sanskrit for ‘rise’) which was founded six years ago in Santa Clara, California by a team of datacenter networking and storage engineers with shared Cisco DNA. Avi’s offer is to provide a software-only, highly manageable approach to application and service delivery for enterprise datacenters and public cloud platforms in order to lower TCO and accelerate the speed at which applications can be deployed. In some ways its vision makes it a smarter successor to the load balancing appliance, as was defined by companies such as NetScaler, now owned by Citrix, and F5 Networks. And in this age of highly motile architectures a core strength of Avi is that it works across private datacenters, AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, bare metal, containers and VMs so that firms can have a highly flexible approach to tactics for handling changing workloads. 

Avi views the load balancer as sitting at the heart of modern IT.

“Fundamentally, a load-balancer plays the part of a traffic cop and ensures a great experience for end-users,” Sekar says. “It’s the most privileged position in the network, the air-traffic control tower. We provide a control plane and a source of intelligence.”

You might compare Avi to AppDynamics (now part of Cisco) or New Relic in the adjacent field of application performance management. All these companies are creating products that are attempts to help firms understand and deal with the new traffic characteristics of the multi-cloud, hybrid age by standing sentry, monitoring all activity and drilling down all the way to log files to identify the root causes of problems, security challenges, latency issues and bottlenecks. And there are useful spinoffs from these smarter architectures: Avi’s Vantage platform anticipates security challenges, for example, through its Web Application Firewall.   

Sekar calls Avi’s approach “intent-based” and compares Avi to a PVR like Sky+ or Tivo, using intelligence to make the user experience intuitive, constantly scanning for information and able to act on rules set by controllers. It appeals to banks, financial services companies, service providers, e-commerce players and any other enterprise that seeks a smarter, modern approach to load balancing.

Having raised $115m and with 250 staff on board it is a promising company that has clear partnering potential and datacenter luminaries such as Red Hat, VMware, Juniper, Splunk, AWS, Microsoft and Nutanix are already cohorts. Most intriguingly of all, networking kingpin Cisco invested in Avi’s recent series D funding round and resells the Vantage platform that integrates tightly with its Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI).

Avi is yet another example of the post-VMware IT world that is seeing sweeping changes to the datacenter in response to new architectures and workloads. With funding from stellar VC firms such as Greylock, Lightspeed and Menlo and with 10 per cent of the Fortune 500 as customers, the company seems set fair to prosper and pursue an eventual IPO.

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