Shashi Kiran: Hello and welcome to this podcast where we put the spotlight on WAN thought leaders, dreamers, and doers, if you will. Today, I'm in conversation with Mehul Patel, from Amyris. Mehul, welcome.
Mehul Patel: Thank you, Shashi. How are you doing today?
Shashi Kiran: Doing well. Thanks for being here. I want to give a quick pointer to Amyris. It's a publicly traded company, a science and technology leader in the research, development, and production of sustainable ingredients for the clean health and beauty and flavors and fragrances markets. Amyris uses an impressive array of exclusive technologies, including state of the art machine learning, robotics, and artificial intelligence. Mehul, Amyris sounds like an exciting place to work. From manufacturing beauty, and high-tech, it's a great combination. What do you do there?
Mehul Patel: Thank you for those words, Shashi. So what I do, I was hired by Amyris two and a half years ago to lead up and manage the cyber security, information security, and the data privacy areas of focus for the company itself. Shortly thereafter, after joining, I realized that there was some gaps within the core IT side and the software engineering side. So at this point, over the course of the two year, two and half year evolution, I manage both the cybersecurity and the infrastructure and software engineering and development for Amyris.
Shashi Kiran: That's a critical role for any company. And when you talk about it through the lens of a company focused on beauty products, how important do you think the network is in such a scenario? You consider it as a strategic asset?
Mehul Patel: I definitely think the network is one of the handful of focus areas that is a strategic asset along with our data and our staff.
Shashi Kiran: So let's turn the clock a bit. How did you get to become an aria customer? What was the decision criteria you guys adopted and how's it working out for you so far?
Mehul Patel: Great question. So when I came on board in 2016, I'm surprised already to find Aryaka in-house within Amyris. However, I saw a couple of issues there. We were not using the platform to its fullest capabilities. And second, upon my due diligence and assessments, there wasn't really an answer I was receiving on what the justification or the reasoning of using SD-WAN and in specific Aryaka. So what I did is over the course of a few months in 2016, I realized that there was a tremendous need for network acceleration and efficiency over our pipes. I saw the type of traffic we're using, the data that was being delivered. So that made sense to me. However, I did see other efficiencies that we could be using or could have gained if we were using the platform to the full potential. And that's shortly after is when I proactively gave our respective sales team a call in Aryaka started engaging with them, what would the product that we have and what other features and solutions that Aryaka can offer.
Shashi Kiran: So it looks like you're a bit of a data intensive company, and it looks like it also matters that application performance is perhaps best in class. Is there a lot of data transfer involved between different sites Mehul.
Mehul Patel: Absolutely Amyris in itself as being a leader in synthetic biology, we are holistically a data-driven company. We have a few petabytes of data in totality, spread between multiple topologies. While the majority of our data is sitting on prem. We are customers of all three large public cloud providers or GCP, AWS, and Azure, as well as we do a lot of data transformation and data exchange on SAS platforms as well.
Shashi Kiran: So it looks like you have a multi-cloud deployment and a combination of on premises and SAS applications as well. What were some of the things you undertook with the Aryaka platform to gain the efficiencies that you were looking for?
Mehul Patel: The first thing we did is, so besides, excuse me, I just want to add that besides the public cloud usage that we are in, we also are geographically distributed across three different continents, North America, South America, and Europe, soon to be Asia. And so the mix and the combination of different permutations between different topologies and geographies and different data sets, you can imagine the complexity of data transfer, data security and performance that we have to manage on a daily basis. And what we found is the performance gains in efficiency in terms of acceleration and compression that we're getting from Aryaka, I believe in 2020, we were averaging around 40%, 35 to 40% compression rate on the directed traffic already. This basically, it's not only a cost reduction, but it definitely increases productivity, speed to market, time to market, et cetera. And it, it really, really is one of those very underrated things until you start looking at the metrics. And that's what we've done for 2020. And it definitely fulfills the main drivers of using a platform.
Shashi Kiran: You mentioned some very interesting things there. Obviously you having a multi-continent deployment scenario already compounds the complexity. Then you have to deal with the ability to get all of the data across different cloud environments, also in a very consistent way, with applications that are performing well. So was this the direction you took the engagement with the platform when you started to dig into this a bit deeper?
Mehul Patel: Absolutely. I think that the direction was initially there to justify the main driver of increased performance, definitely for the type of data sets that we have today, which mainly is Office 365 traffic, as well as specific SAP traffic to our IP sec tunnels. And so what we've seen is a tremendous improvement in the acceleration performance and... The cherry on top, which we did not realize until we needed it was, in some areas, and some times, Aryaka afforded us disaster recovery, at times. So going through your circuits, through your pops, using your service we were able to leverage a secondary path to our destination.
Shashi Kiran: That got you a lot of availability and redundancy, I guess. You mentioned an interesting word, productivity, and I want to maybe double click on that, particularly in the context of the pandemic that we're all going through. What productivity took a bit of a hit, and I'm curious to know how was it that your team handled the shift in gears and what were you doing to look at technology as being an agent of change, to handle the impact of the pandemic?
Mehul Patel: Yeah, absolutely. And I think the pandemic, to your point, showed a few things, to various organizations. One, it showed, on one side, the weaknesses respectively in our organizations in terms of remote work, remote connectivity, and what is the level of availability in terms of anytime there's a low probability high impact event, such as a pandemic. On the other side, though, which many people are not talking about is it also shows the strengths of the organization, if such exists. In terms of Amyris, we were already being a cutting edge leader in synthetic biology. And half of our business was built on the cloud, in the cloud ground up, particularly B to C side of the business. And as we did that, we rolled the whole organization into a very agile topology in terms of remote work, remote connectivity.
So right when the pandemic hit and we happen to be headquartered in the bay area, California, we went on lockdown pretty much one of the first regions in the country with very severe lockdown. And we realized that we were in a very good position. One, we were ready for remote... Our whole office, 99% of our office in a matter of one week had to work remotely. And we did not have to scale up or expand out much. We were already, we used the same designs and the same tools and platforms that we're using before. And basically what we scaled was our licensing, if anything else. On top of that, we relied on Aryaka. Again, I'll go back to that availability, the additional availability for path, for network transmission and the network path that we have to our destinations and resources.
So I think the combination of the agility within the planning team within Amyris, as well as partners, such as yourself, Aryaka and the platforms that you guys use gave Amyris and companies like Amyris the ability to not only provide the same services in these high impact events, but gave us the confidence. While others other organizations were struggling to get either their people on board or connected remotely, by the second month, by April, mid-April, Amyris was already on our second campaign for our hand sanitizer product, which we were able to go from idea to market within 12 days.
Shashi Kiran: That's a fantastic narrative. And in some ways they say a fortune favors the prepared. Looks like you guys were very well-prepared. But most importantly, I think the companies that managed to pivot during the pandemic were the ones that were able to handle change gracefully. And it looks like Amyris was at the forefront of being able to make change happen gracefully.
Mehul Patel: Completely agree Shashi, definitely with Aryaka's help. One thing I can say is even before the pandemic, my experience, outside of the performance and the platform, ease of use in itself, the support team, I have to give many accolades. I've been in this industry for over 20 years. And as a managed service, it's an expectation that the customers and clients have, right? And in my opinion Aryaka has fulfilled every definition of the word and the term management service. I've noticed multiple times in the two and a half years, I've been at Amyris, when circuits go down, when our ISP goes down, not even Aryaka's POP but just even our circuit. I noticed that the Aryaka support team many times is the first team to advise and alert us, not even our ISP. And they're one of the few companies I've ever worked with in my 20 years that have stayed with me through phone calls, through support calls while different vendors are pointing fingers, Aryaka support lack of better words, they're keeping it real.
When somebody tries to point the finger, they will produce network evidence, outputs of commands to show exactly what the gap is and where the issue is. And I was kind of blown away early on when I joined Amyris to see this level of support and effort for our clients. Even though none of these issues that I'm talking about were caused by Aryaka or even the circuits that they sit on. And so that to me, outside, in addition to the performance, ease of use, and the other benefits that we're getting from the platform, not many people talk about support, but I have to go on this one that it's one of the top companies I've worked for in terms of support. I've worked with, sorry.
Shashi Kiran: That is a great compliment. And I know our support team wears it as a badge of honor to be there, and not finger-pointing. We've heard this time and again. So thank you for reinforcing that, Mehul. So as we kind of look at a lot of these things happening, and particularly in the context of networks, Murphy's law always strikes at some point or another. And this pandemic was a big Murphy's law. We're just, caught everybody unaware. What was some of the learnings you got as a result of it in a way that it is causing you to look at things differently in the next few years? Are there any fresh perspectives you've gotten so far?
Mehul Patel: Yeah, I think one of the one of the biggest things I've taken away from 2020 and the events that that we all went through, is we all concentrate on more of the technical pieces when these types of events occur. And we project plan, we design, we discuss, do the due diligence. But one thing that was brought up consistently through the last 10 months or so was the qualitative factor that we can't really measure. That's culture.
One thing we noticed in Amyris, I can say that Amyris has a very, very positive culture. The scalability in terms of technical terms, corresponds and correlates with the culture. And what I mean by that is if the culture is resistant, if the culture is closed, non-transparent, the changes needed and required to make the organization more agile, more dynamic, it becomes very, very, very difficult. Even if you have the right platforms, the right tools and even the right skillset and the knowledge base, right.
I think it's that impetus that people kind of underrate. And I found that because in Amyris that we have such a positive culture for change. And we look at change, not in a resistant fashion, but more of a, hey, this is... Change is going to be better, right. Change will make us more competitive. And I believe this is probably one of the most underrated factors in such times. So I know everybody's concentrating on the technical piece, right. But I believe that culture definitely can make or break success, or the objectives that we're trying to reach.
Shashi Kiran: I couldn't agree with you more on that one Mehul. In fact, survey after survey done across multiple aspects of technology, especially during early stages of adoption, the one facet that is the hardest to break through is culture. And if the Amyris team has actually cracked the culture code and kudos to your team on that, and as much as you complemented Aryaka and the support team here, I think this is where we all collectively tip the hat towards Amyris. Because that positive culture can be a very powerful change agent in itself.
Mehul Patel: Agreed.
Shashi Kiran: And speaking of change, you have an interesting role, which is at the nexus of security network infrastructure, which in many companies may be somewhat siloed. So how are you viewing the convergence of these things coming about between the network security cloud applications? What is the modus operandi that you foresee there?
Mehul Patel: Yeah. Great question. So this is a very discussed topic here, right? Where are the boundaries between the core IT or IT operations and security or InfoSec? In the past it's been the practice where there is a silo, as you mentioned, many organizations, and then there's good reasons for that. There's multiple reasons, but there's also advantages. In certain conditions, in certain types of organizations where both of these functions fall under the same umbrella. And I believe that Amyris was one of them.
When I joined over two years ago, immediately I knew what my primary role and description was. But shortly after, I realized, me managing or myself, anybody managing cybersecurity, you can't do it alone. Cybersecurity affects not only the technology, but it affects the processes and the culture once again, and affects every department and every action that they're doing.
So what I realized is that the underlying processes, there's a foundational layer of technology in every organization underneath that. And it is very advantageous for somebody in my position to bake in security, not only security platforms, but security processes themselves. The processes themselves need to be aimed in an objective towards a more secured environment. And that's what we've been doing for the last two and a half years. Will there be a time in Amyris where there'll be a disjoining of the two, for some of the other reasons why they should be? Absolutely. We'll definitely make that decision when the time comes and we feel that it is the case, but right now, as we've been discussing, although we've made many strides, we still have some ways to go. And we definitely want to continue working with our partners, such as Aryaka to help us pave that way.
Shashi Kiran: That's really good. And I think you're probably at the forefront of the thought processes along these lines, compared to many others that we talked to today. And just continuing along those lines, we spent some time looking in the rear view mirror in terms of all the things that transpired thus far. If you were to take this thought process and look ahead, say the next three to five years, or even next week, there's just so much happening in the world of tech, between artificial intelligence, 5g, network security, cloud are all evolving. What's your vision for the next five to ten years? Where do you see all this heading towards?
Mehul Patel: Now you're getting me excited Shashi. Next five to ten years, it's very difficult to gauge or even estimate, right. IT, the laws of accelerating power, as we know, move so fast. Probably around 2010, around that time, it became very difficult to even estimate technological advances or even five years out. And now we're at the point where I'm doing a three-year roadmap. And my third year is mostly guesses, right? It's inferences based on product and technology development. Where are we going to be? Five to ten years, basically, I'm hoping that we have a much more robust global wireless network, hopefully a technology such as Starlink, et cetera, can definitely make an impact.
We have many areas around the world, and industries, agriculture, mining, other industrial aspects where there's edge devices and IOT devices in a very disparate and very isolated areas of the world. And I'm thinking the more connectivity that occurs, it can bring larger portions of the industrial world into the digital world. So that's one thing. And I think hopefully that's coupled with lot more organization on the network side. And what I mean by that is where are we today? We've been working off very legacy models. Internal, external type of networks, DMZs. These models still exist. And what SD-WAN has done is kind of liberate these models. Even though many companies and organizations still use these type of legacy networking models, SD-WAN can not only help with those types of models, but also the future. For example, virtual flat networks, where it's cloud agnostic or even private cloud agnostic.
And I think in terms of orchestration, operational fluidity, and architecture, these are the big things that we're going to be looking for because those legacy silos have disappeared, right? Those co-los with MPLS networks. They will always exist, but we know that the market share for those is going lower and lower every year. And as a cloud platforms to become more agile, more inclusive, and definitely ready to be developed on with open standards, we are going to probably be seeing a big revolution. And that's all on the performance side.
I think on the security side, it's also going to be somewhat revolutionary, right? Because the more attack surface or surface area we have, the attack surface increases. And what we're seeing, for example, in the case of Amyris, as I mentioned, we exist in multiple geographies, multiple topologies. We have multiple types of data sets, and for multiple types of businesses. So where is the perimeter today? The legacy model of that perimeter doesn't exist. If you want to create a perimeter, it's very similar. And the closest thing to that is the user, right? The zero trust model basically formulates that every single person or identity is a perimeter. And I believe that is probably the best and the direction that we're going to be moving towards.
Shashi Kiran: That's very well narrated. And I think we are moving towards this borderless world with everybody's an atomic unit of one, and you do need the zero trust enforcement there. And a lot of what you talked about are embodied in what we call as a cloud first approach from an Aryaka perspective. So I'm really glad to see there is some alignment in terms of your vision and how we like to project it ourselves moving forward.
I'm also personally excited about the fact that we see a lot of technologies that are advancing in the B to C are coming in the B to B space, which has been somewhat slower moving. And the boundaries between these are kind of blurring in a way, which would accelerate innovation and change in some ways. So before we let you go, any words of wisdom you'd like to share with other companies that might want to engage and potentially become a customer of Aryaka?
Mehul Patel: Absolutely. I would say, any organization that is running an older type of network, if you have a dedicated MPLS network, or if you're looking for greater agility in your typology, as well as in your security, SD-WAN and specifically Aryaka for the previously mentioned reasons would be definitely a top contender and a leader in the industry. And I think that Aryaka itself, the company itself is sharp in recognizing some of these needs in the area itself.
So SDN is simply not just for acceleration or performance, even though that's what Amyris initially intended its use for. What we're going to be doing in 2021 and post is now concentrating on the security features. So we want to couple our performance benefits that we're getting through the services that we're getting today with some of the security features that Aryaka produces as well. In terms of we have probably six or seven different sites that we do not own in terms of either purchase or lease. So we are basically sitting in somebody else's infrastructure, third-party campus, for example. And so I think from a security perspective, how do we secure our data? This is just one of the projects that we'll be working with Aryaka in 2021, to make sure that geographically our data's secured, and we can keep that data in an agile state, where we can move it where we want to. We're definitely looking forward to working with your team.
Shashi Kiran: Mehul, thank you a lot for those comments. At Aryaka, we are honored to have Amyris as a customer and somebody like yourself, who's a thought leader, hand-holding this particular engagement. We look forward to associating with you in all of your 2021 and beyond initiatives, both on the SD-WAN as a service, as well as the security constructs that you are talking about. And with that, I would really like to thank you for your insights today, and for committing to the time to share some of your thoughts with the rest of the audience. Thank you so much Mehul.
Mehul Patel: Thank you Shashi. It's been a pleasure.
Note: The transcripts of the podcasts may not be fully accurate. Please excuse any grammar and spelling issues.