Mode Cast

The Voice of One Third of the Internet:
Tata Discusses Networking

"You know, if you ever [work with] Mode, obviously [enterprise networking] becomes a lot easier."

— Sushil Nalawade, Head of Solutions Engineering at Tata Communications


Sushil Nalawade,
Head of Solutions Engineering at Tata Communications


In this Mode Cast from the Core, JoAnne McDougald speaks with Sushil Nalawade about Tata Communications' view of the future of network infrastructure, particularly regarding security. Sushil Nalawade is director of solutions engineering at Tata, a company responsible for a significant portion of the entire internet’s infrastructure today.

Listen on SoundCloud [Or read the transcript below]


JoAnne McDougald:
"Hi everyone, and welcome to another addition of "Talking Tech with Jo." I'm here at the ONUG conference. It's October. It's 2018. It's beautiful, and I'm sitting here talking with Sushil Nalawade, Tata Communications, Director of Solutions Engineering. Hi, Sushil. Welcome to the podcast."

Sushil Nalawade:
"Hey, glad to be here. This is interesting."

"Yeah. [Laughter] So, we've all had a couple of days now of ONUG. ONUG is a unique user group that's around open networking and allowing companies like yourselves to be able to talk with vendors and really set the line of sight for where networking is going to go and grow to over the next couple of years. And I think it's a really nice consultative place for these two groups to come together in an open way and hear what new vendors are doing – and then also as a way to vet them. There's this whole proof-of-concept thing that happens. So Sushil, tell me a little bit about yourself – what you do and what brought you to the conference today."

"Yeah, sure. So, I work for Tata Communications. We're a global leader when it comes to the unified communication and collaboration network services. I've worked with them for the last 13 years, now. This is our first time in ONUG."

"So you started when you were 14. It's okay."

[Laughs] "Thank you for the compliment. Yeah, so obviously ONUG is a bit unique in terms of some of the industry forums, right? You know, we visit – because they're more like a vendor-managed kind of forum, where it says the ONUG is created by the enterprises, right? So that's obviously an interesting thing for global leaders like us, you know, to understand what are the challenges. What are the things they want to do differently, right? And coming right from the enterprise environment...

So it's a great insight. There have been a lot of great discussions. I know that security is the theme. You know, it's good to know what some of the established vendors are doing. You know, we have been in the [POCs] with Amazon, Cisco, and some of these guys, and then there are a lot of the new startup ideas. So it's pretty interesting, you know? There is a lot to learn to take back from the enterprises we are talking to and then look at what are some of the things we can do to solve their problems."

"Yeah. So some of the vendors in the room that I've had an opportunity to do some podcasts with were – I guess they're not really a vendor anymore, but Meraki – recently acquired by Cisco, but they're bringing together SD-WAN and security, which I think is super critical in terms of where the path is going.

So can you just tell me a little bit about what Tata has been working on and where you guys see the future of networking? I mean, I know every connected device in the world is giving data back to the enterprise, enabling them to hopefully make the right offer at the right time, reduce customers churn, and improve visibility and customer experience.

I think, you know, as we're all just addicted to our Netflix and chill and there's so much more data on the networks than Cisco or anybody who ever created the Interwebs at the beginning – ARPANET – really imagined we would do. And networking – you know, the speed of commerce is dictated by how quickly you can keep these packets moving, but it also has to be done in a secure manner.

You know, we're all victims of a breach by now. I think 100 percent of us have been breached in some way. How do we think that... You know, networking principles have been so critical in helping other devices, and I think the feedback loop between the networking principles that have been put in place are now spilling into hardware. It's sort of bottoms-down, top-up, going both ways to make sure that all of that is happening. So what's your take on what Tata's doing?"

"Sure. You know, for us it's really very critical, right? We reach about 99.7 percent of the world's GDP. So that's how humongous our network is. We're a very large, tier-one autonomous system when it comes to the Internet. I was talking to somebody at the booth, and we were talking about the scale of the Internet and just coming out of this session about – you know, which was talking about, is the Internet secure?

We are a substantial part of the Internet. We own about 28 percent of the world's Internet routes. So just to talk [that] in the layman's term is, if Tata has a problem, then the world's 28 percent of the users are suffering. Either they are not getting access to the Internet, or they are having performance issues. So that's the scale we have.

So it's really important for us to think of it from a user perspective, right? Even if we are B2B, what we are trying to develop, what we are trying to bring on the market, has that consumer insight. So that's how we are helping the businesses to solve some of these problems.

So in terms of the partnership, we really are big in the partnership. You know, that's in our vision, how we use the partners – you know, how we advance their reach in the global market. So the ecosystem connecting all the partners together is a very big thing for us.

So now talking specifically from a networking perspective, obviously we have done a lot of innovation ourselves, being a very tier-one carrier of the world, but we have also partnered with some of the great – the new ideas, the new innovators. Like, Ward Size is one of our partners when it comes to software-defined WAN. They're obviously doing a great job in terms of also bringing other elements of the branch in the ecosystem: next-generation firewall, WAN optimization – you know, those sorts of things. So they're completely embedded in our portfolio. That's part of our offering, right?

Obviously there are a lot of other things that are happening when it comes to the core part of the world. You know, I was hearing Steve Garson talking about how we solve the problems on the Internet. You know, we consider that also a big responsibility of ours, because we own so much of the Internet. It's also our responsibility to make the core, right? And we make the Internet fit for business, right? I mean, can we run MPLS light performance on the Internet?

So we have done some work ourselves. We announced a platform back in 2014 as part of IZO. IZO Internet is something that sits in between the MPLS and Internet. So it's not a best effort Internet. It's not a costly MPLS. It gives the best of the both worlds, and customers really like that because we can start creating how the package is going to come from China to the US on a predictable latency path.

Something similar is now happening in the market with the innovators like Mode, right? You know, we met with them a couple of times. It's just a great way of looking at... You know, the last mile is obviously getting... The distance between the user and the core is getting reduced, right? So the last-mile latency is about ten milliseconds, and even if you have 100-percent variation, you're going to from ten milliseconds to twenty milliseconds. But when there is a variation in the core...

Let's talk about something coming from China to the US, which is like a 250 to 300-millisecond physical path. Imagine now having 20, 30, or 50 percent of the latency variation, right? That's obviously not going to work for a lot of the applications, and that's exactly what the enterprises talk about when it comes to the cloud adoption. You know, hey, can somebody manage the problems that happen on the Internet core?

You know, the work that the guys like Mode are doing... Obviously there are players trying to get in a similar market, but it's amazing. They are trying to work with... When it comes to the edge, they are keeping it more agnostic uploads so they can work with partners like Versa, which is great for us, because if we have Versa embedded in our system then... You know, if you ever look at doing something with Mode, obviously it becomes a lot more easier to see it, because there is already that synergy that's in place."

"Yeah, and that's why I think conferences like this are so important. It gives you a chance to really meet each other and talk about each other's technology. They have these case study, proof-of-concept areas where people really get to show in a uniform manner... You know, ONUG provides the case study, and then everybody does their presentation, their proof of concept, on that singular use case, which means everybody's kind of being judged on a fair playing field. And just everyone has a different approach. Then you can identify what works within your organization and what's going to help your customers really do well. You know, thinking about Tata owning 28 percent of the backbone, I guess – right? That's what we're saying. So when you guys get a cold, the world gets a flu." [Laughter]

"That's the way to put it, you know? We're right on the corner of the flu season."

"Ah. No we're not. We all got a flu shot. We're all getting – "

"I have to do that. But yeah, that's exactly why we are here, because it's the best combination of some of the leading enterprises – you know, the new ideas that are emerging in the market. And somebody like us, who can be the backbone or the platform for not just the enterprises that run the business but also for some of the new players that come and – you know, implement their ideas."

"This whole ecosystem is growing. I mean, there's no end to the increased connectivity and increased amount of data that people are willing and able to create and share. Every person can now be a creator, pretty much. Thank you, YouTube. There's a creator channel for everyone. So people are doing that, and it's making the world more interesting, more diverse, more inclusive – and so giving us all an opportunity to tell our stories and be closer in that way. And your network is firmly behind that. One of the things that I... I did interview Steve Garson before you a little bit ago, and he did – "

"I got to speak with him."

"Oh, good. Yeah, he's great. And talking with latency – you know, like this average latency is not really an acceptable measurement anymore, and he's really getting granular about how to measure latency on a per-packet basis, it seems. Did you see his talk yesterday?"

"Yes, yes. I did. It's quite interesting, because at a high level he kind of divided the problem into... There is a first-mile and a last-mile portion. Then there is the core portion, right? We know, because we are a global provider. That's what we do every day, right? Our target customers are the big global [unintelligible 00:11:57] who need the platform to talk to their manufacturing plants in China or their offshore offices in India, right? And all this traffic is coming from the US and going into other emerging markets, because we're also focusing on Middle East, Africa – you know?

Steve Garson's calculations would be much more crazy when you are trying to measure something coming from the South Africa or Kenya back into the US, right? And that's a problem I think we all have to solve. I mean, we are an infrastructure company, so we have to make the Internet better – the Internet feeling better. And we have already taken the steps in that direction, because we cannot keep telling customers that, oh, if you need a better performance, then you have to buy MPLS. If their applications or if their business is running on the Internet, then I think it's our responsibility as a global leader to make the Internet fit for business, right?

Obviously some of the work that Mode is doing and some other guys are doing that are specifically focused on the SD-Core market – I think that's really going to help the customers to adopt the cloud more, to be more on the Internet. Obviously the security is going to be the big concern, the roadblock when it comes to that. You know, there are a lot of new concepts. I was also talking to the guys from Illumio. They were talking about the microsegmentation.

Obviously yes, as service providers or as technology providers, we have a responsibility to make the Internet secure, but at the same time we also have to look at what you can do more from an application perspective or from an IoT perspective when it comes to the security. And there is a lot we are doing in that area, also.

Obviously when it comes to India, which is our home market, we do a lot more than what we do in some of the international markets. We're are actually reaching the consumer. We have our own IoT footprint – you know, the lower network to connect to the smart cities and connecting the sensors. When you go into that kind of area, the security becomes really very, very important. So you cannot do the solution unless you have solved the security problems. So we're obviously doing some of that work, as well, when it comes to not just making the Internet fit for business but also making it secure for the endpoints."

"My layman's analogy for the Internet is down to Waze. Like, I love Waze. And Waze is making my commute better, but it's also making the whole commute for the Bay Area where I live better, because if they're able to shunt traffic en masse... Like, there are places where they're like, get off of 101. Get onto 280 for this stretch. Come back to 101 so you can hit your final destination. But it improves the drive for all of us. That's what providers like you are able to do."

"Yeah, absolutely. I think Steve used that analogy of Waze, right?"

"Oh, he did?"

"I think one of his articles – I think it talked – I don't know if it was Steve or somebody else. But that's the perfect way of looking at it, right? As I said, everybody's going to do their part. We come more from an infrastructure perspective. Some are going to come and look at the TCP/IP stack. You know, what can we innovate in that area? But I think we are all heading at the same goal: How can we make life easier for our end users?"

"I love it. Making life easier for end users. This is Sushil Nalawade for Tata Communications. Thanks so much for joining us today."

"Oh, thank you. Thank you for interviewing me."