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Meet Coredge, A Company Accelerating Edge Computing Adoption

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Guest: Arif Khan (LinkedIn)
Company: Coredge (Twitter)
Show: Let’s Talk

Coredge is building a revolutionary edge computing platform to address the orchestration and management requirements driven by new-age applications and use cases that require low latency and hyper-automated delivery. We recently hosted Arif Khan, Co-founder and CEO of Coredge, to understand how the company is helping customers solve complex orchestration and day 0, day 1 and day 2 management issues while moving to modern infrastructure.

Here are the key points from this discussion:

  • What problems were you trying to solve that you created the company?

“As the edge infrastructure market would be a couple of trillion dollar opportunity by 2030, I started looking closely at what exactly this edge was. And if you talk about 5G and IoT 4.0, I discovered that they have one thing in common: Edge computing is going to be the enabler for all these transformations. At Coredge, we are accelerating this edge moment. And that’s why I have founded this company.”

  • How different is the edge from a traditional data center and what unique challenges it poses?

“Edge is like a smaller data center, smaller than many clouds you have to manage, which also means increased complexity as you know we are talking about managing thousands and millions of edge sites, which in itself is an instance of a cloud.”

  • What are the complexities of running and operating an edge data center?

“Data operation is going to be complex, but if all companies join hands and focus much more on automation and standardization in this space, I think, people will succeed.”

  • How is Coredge actually helping users? 

“Our product, which is called KubeGuardian, is solving all these Day 2 operations challenges. It helps engineers with all operation-related jobs for edge computing, be it backup and recovery, certifications, or even policy control, rolling upgrades, or life cycle management of applications.

Compass, our second product,  is actually an orchestrator.  You can imagine it as an automation layer, which can manage application onboarding on all these thousands and millions of edge sites, which you are building.”

  •  If you look at Coredge, what is your core strength?

We have been very instrumental in the cloud journey. We have seen that whole box business of converging into the cloud-based architecture and all those application onboarding challenges and everything. So, that’s what we have learned and brought into Coredge.” 

  • What does open source mean to the company?

“I have been working in the OpenInfra Foundation from early 2010 itself from the Tableau release, which they were at that time. So we, as a company, are working very actively in CNCF, Linux Foundation as well as OpenInfra Foundation…So open source is the key strategy for our company. It’s not just one of the fancy words which people use. I think it’s a part of our DNA.”

  • How is Coredge participating in open source projects?

“Coredge developers are contributing to OpenInfra Foundation, CNCF and the Linux Foundation. In the coming year, you will see much bigger contributions in terms of even products and some of the projects that we are currently working on.”

The summary of the show is written by Monika Chauhan

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Swapnil Bhartiya: Hi. This is your host, Swapnil Bhartiya, and welcome to TFiR Let’s talk. And today we have with us Arif Khan, Co-founder and CEO of Coredge. Arif, it’s great to have you on show.

Arif Khan: Thank you, Swapnil. And it is really a pleasure. I have been listening to all your videos. And it’s really a great opportunity to be part of this myself. So thank you for hosting me.

Swapnil Bhartiya: And it’s my privilege as well to host you on the show, because you’re a co-founder of the company. So I also want to understand first of all, what do you folks do? What problem you saw in the space that you wanted to solve that you created the company? So let’s start with the origin story of the company.

Arif Khan: Let me give you a little bit of my background. So, I have been working as a cloud PDU head in Ericsson, and there I was leading the whole cloud development. And then I saw this whole cloud convergence from box business to the whole cloud-based architecture. And right now if you see the public cloud from the market perspective, it’s already more than a hundred billion opportunity. But right now, the major share of the portion is pretty much dominated by Amazon, Google and Microsoft. And so that’s the bigger opportunity and I have been into that space. But something special happened couple of years back, two years back, when suddenly people started talking about futuristic use cases. And then they started talking about edge computing. And then I have been very interested because it was more a progression for me from cloud to edge computing, and that’s where I started studying.

And one thing which was… It’s a pleasant shock. You can say that this market opportunity suddenly… Which is edge infrastructure market opportunity is a couple of trillion dollar opportunity by 2030. So yeah, suddenly my whole interest and focus moved to this. And then I started looking closely at what exactly is this edge. And now when we are talking about futuristic use cases, but in reality some of these use cases are already happening now. You and me are speaking, driverless cars are they are already there, remote robotic surgery are there. So the mass adoption is yet to happen, but these futuristic use cases are there. And that’s where my whole attention and focus went into that. I should be looking more carefully at this edge space. And then I discovered if you talk about 5G, if you talk about IoT 4.0, one thing was very, very common that edge computing is going to be the enabler for all these transformations.

And I don’t know, Swapnil if you have gone to the website, our logos and the theme, like what we say that, as a Coredge, we are accelerating this edge moment. And that’s why I have founded this company.

Swapnil Bhartiya: There are a couple of things that you mentioned there, and I want to go a bit deeper into that. Number one is that you talked about cloud to edge. When we talk about edge depending on who you talk to, different people define edge in their own way. How do you define edge? Because you did give some example. I mean, when I look at Tesla cars I call them IoT devices on wheels or super computers on wheels kind of thing. And then you also have IoT which are smart tiny sensors in a home or a factory. Edge can also mean the source constrained data centers somewhere remotely. Edge can also means closer to user. So I want to understand from your perspective, how do you define edge?

Arif Khan: Right now if you see our hyperscalers like Google and Amazon, they have been rolling out certain offering like IoT and IoT related offering as an edge. Of course, those are because they’re getting data from the remote sensors and all. That makes sense. But now when I’m talking about it is more around edge infrastructure, that means building a smaller data center close to the source of application or user, so that you get next level of experience. Some of these use cases which I talked about, augmented reality or remote robotic surgery or driverless car, how will you enable it? See, there are two perspectives, Swapnil. What I can do… And that’s what happening right now. So I’ll take one very basic example that if you go to IKEA shop, they will give you an augmented reality, heavy device which you can wear on your head. And then you can start visualizing that this particular sofa set how it will look with my home, what curtains, and stuff like that.

Right now what is happening is all the compute, storage, network, everything is built on that particular device. Imagine a situation. If you are just wearing a very small thin Google glasses and all the processing happening to a edge site which is closer to a IKEA shop, then the experience is huge. Because those heavy devices you can’t really wear for more than 30 minutes. Same thing, IoT device. If you start building these compute storage and network capacity, the cost will be humongous.

So the whole industry 4.0 will not have the value. So that’s where you need edge site, which is close to the application, close to the data, and it can be used by many other such application. So that’s how I defined edge and edge as an input. So whatever we are doing, we are specifically focusing on edge infrastructure. So product around edge infrastructure, how to build it, how to operate it. That’s the main function or focus of this company.

Swapnil Bhartiya: Let’s talk about edge infrastructure, how different it is from traditional data centers, because the challenges are different. Also expectations are also different. So, talk about that as well.

Arif Khan: The cloud business, it’s all about centralizing the resources. The whole scale runs on the scale of economy, right? So the power will reduce the cooling and all this. So, that’s how this whole cloud computing business was flourishing. And we have seen that a lot of better advantage of it. But with edge, these requirements will change. So now, when we were in cloud computing, we are managing maybe millions and thousands of servers under one cloud. Now we are talking about edge, which will be like a smaller data center. So, from the technology side, it’s also like a smaller, smaller that many clouds you have to manage. Previously, the complexity was high, because the huge number of servers, but now the complexity increases much, much further. Now, suddenly we are not talking about managing thousands and millions of servers. Now we are talking about managing thousands and millions of edge site, which is a itself is a intense of a cloud.

So that’s the bigger difference when compared to cloud and edge. And right now, just to add on, just to give you some fact. Three main players in the market who really want to prove their dominance, because this opportunity, which I talked about, that it is something about 4 trillion by 2030. No, the winner is not yet decided. The hyperscalers are fighting for it. The telcos are fighting for it. And even hyperlocal, which are like colocation companies trying to dominate this space. So, the companies hyperscalers, when they say that we have dominance in edge because they are very good in cloud software. And they can scale that model replicated. But when it comes to telcos they say that guys, we have been running this distributed assets quite a long time. And it’s edge is where we have a lot of advantage. And similar way colocation companies who have been just building big data centers. Now they are telling that now they can build these edge sites.

So yeah, different perspective, but just, we can clearly see that there is a fight for dominance, which is happening. And in the coming years, this will help… We will see who will be the winner, but very interesting moment where you and me, Swapnil, we are in this space who are seeing this big transformation.

Swapnil Bhartiya: Actually, we are at a stage in which this whole transformation is going on. And so we are seeing it in front of our eyes. I mean, look at technology Kubernetes, which are like, what, 5, 6, 7 years old, we are seeing the whole transformation there. I’ll go back to the edge use case. One more is that in addition to complexity, there are a couple of things that also make edge data centers different from traditional data centers. One is, as you said, these are remote sites and these can be hundreds and thousands of that maintenance update. So, you have to also build it big, they should be able to heal themselves. Because you cannot send folks up on the tree or wherever latency is there. So can you also talk about this challenge, because when we do build edge data centers, we have to take these things into account because you can’t even reach your data center.

Arif Khan: Exactly. And Swapnil, running and operating is the toughest job of anything. So of course, I can build a software that works functionally, but if I have to commit certain SLAs to my end customer and where we are talking about 49, 59 in telcos, it’s a huge challenge. And so the whole thing, it’s true. This manual effort will not be good enough. And the whole thing where companies whosoever, who’s playing a big role in this, they should focus on automation. And automation is in everything, whether you are doing cluster lifecycle management upgrades, otherwise, imagine if you have to upgrade Kubernetes version one to two, and there are 20,000 sites. It’s not even possible manually.

So, automation is the main focus and even as our company Coredge, our product is pretty much focusing on Day 2 operation challenges, whether it is all these backup and recovery, maintenance, lifecycle management of… Even controlling a policy like centrally, you should define your own policy, which is uniform in all edge sites. If it is not uniform, it is already vulnerable with cyber attacks and stuff like that. So that kind of a policy control, you will also need it. So yes, data operation is going to be complex, but if all companies and everything join hands and focus much more on automation and standardization in this space, I think, people will be succeeding.

Swapnil Bhartiya: And that is a perfect segue to talk about Coredge Solutions. We talked about what Coredge is, why you created it, but let’s not talk about the solution. We talked about the problem areas. Now let’s talk about how you’re actually helping users and who your users are. So, let’s start with the solution part and then who is using them.

Arif Khan: Yeah. So here, what I will do Swapnil, I will take three examples. And these three examples are my customers, which I have taken as an example specifically from different domains. So, that everybody gets the relevance because here you will see that everybody wants the same goal, but all have different motivation to drive this. Right? So with that first use case, which I’m going to talk about, here we are working with one of the most innovative telco tier one operators in Japan, who is building whole cloud native networks. Of course, the cloud native is sounds very cool, but managing it, operating it, it’s a huge challenge. And that’s where we are working with them. Our product, which is called KubeGuardian, is solving all these Day 2 operations challenges.

So that’s the first solution, which we are going to talk about is KubeGuardian, which actually solves all your day to operation. Because Swapnil, these complexities in the cloud were very high. But now with the edge, it’s increased multiple times, right? And even to manage this, you really need a lot of skilled resources. And these skilled resources are very niche right now, because if you just take Kubernetes, it’s not very old and to have that kind of expertise. So, we have abstracted that complexity of operation. So we have created our product KubeGuardian through which even normal engineers can do all operation related jobs for edge computing, be it backup and recovery, certifications, or even whatever policy control, rolling upgrades, you name it. Life cycle management of application. So these are things which are possible through this product and the first customer they’re using us for that.

Second example I will take… And this is a very close to my heart. And I think this will appear also lot of people. And we were also this Government of India. Government of India… Everybody now realize the value of data and data is all we talk about it. And one thing in India, there is a big digital push for digitalization, digital India. And with that, there are a lot of push on infrastructure. So one thing, ministry, and even Government of India, they realize that our dependency on some of the biggest [inaudible 00:14:26] of the world is not sustainable. They are not going to get that long term ROI on their investment, what they are doing it, and there is no end on it. And they are pretty much stuck. And whenever there is a new upgrade, they have to sell out a lot of dollars for that. So they wanted to have a control over their own destiny, Government of India.

And our products, both KubeGuardian and even the compass. Compass is actually an orchestrator. An orchestrator, you can imagine as an automation layer, which can manage application onboarding on all these thousands and millions of edge sites, which you are building. So, that’s our second product. So, Swapnil, I’ll go a little bit deeper into it because developers, they really don’t care about… And they don’t know what infrastructure is, whether it is a network are or how they will get this much.

So, what we have built, we have built a very beautiful orchestrator. It’s called intent-based orchestration. That means as a developer, I need to write my intent. I can take a very simple example that suppose I have written an application which has a multiple microservices architecture. So, as an intent I can… I’m doing blueprinting on my orchestrator. I can write that this microservice should have latencies equal to… Let’s say, five milliseconds, not more than that. And that’s it. All the magic and abstraction this cloud compose as a product will take care of it. They will do all the internal validation, everything, and they will deploy on the correct edge site where they can get this kind of the characteristics. So that’s second customer, which we are working.

Third. And this is one of the most prominent, because when we talk about edge, we talk about latency. We talk about through pool, taking data back to the cloud is expensive. So, but there is another thing which is driving edge is data governance. And it is happening all over the world, right? People want to have full control over own data. They don’t want that their data should go out of their country. And that’s where I see. And major trend that lot of these local or national level companies who used to do colocation services. They are getting a lot of requirement from the customer that how they can leverage edge, right? And that’s where lot of big… Even in India, we are working with couple of big hyperlocal, just to make it not hyperscaler. Hyperlocal companies to enable this whole edge platform.

The initial use cases, which they are working is of course, CDN and basic video streaming servers, just like how… Just to improve the experience if Netflix is going to stream from the closest edge site. So things like that. So these hyperlocal companies. So just see Swapnil, telco, who is doing whole cloud native whole or run specific stuff. Second, your Government of India who wants to control their own destiny in terms of technology. Third, these are hyperlocals, which is where the customers want to control our data. They want that data should not go back. So, just that will give a good flavor of our product, which we are working.

Swapnil Bhartiya: If you look at Coredge, you have your own mission to help companies. Are there certain things that you specifically… This is close to what your mission is. It could be either security, because security is also important. It could be privacy giving the data sovereignty. It could be ease of use to help folks manage their edge data center through orchestration and automation. So if you look at Coredge, what is your core strength?

Arif Khan: Yeah. So as I told you, even my background and all the other members, we have been very instrumental in the cloud journey. We have seen that whole box business of converging into the cloud based architecture and all those application onboarding challenges and everything. So, that’s what we have learned. We have bring back into Coredge. And now with edge, when such complexities are increasing hugely managing such edge sites, or even doing deployment or day zero, where applications are getting on board. So as a strength, I think, at least for this year, I’m sure that we will be pretty much focusing on easing out edge build out, as well as edge operations. So managing the whole edge sites. So, that’s where our strengths come into the picture.

Swapnil Bhartiya: Right. [inaudible 00:19:29] I’ve got a fact that as you initially mentioned, from cloud to edge, this is the movement we are seeing… The interesting thing is that everybody wants to use most of these technologies. But once again, as you mentioned earlier, there’s a talent shortage as well. There are not enough people who know. I mean, these technologies are coming out on a weekly basis. How can you get an expert who knows about that? Plus we go back to the very old thing that running and managing these things are challenging. Then security, because you’re dealing with data security becomes a bit complex. And cloud native itself is a very complicated field. And when you bring edge into that picture, it becomes even more complicated. So, basically, you’re trying to help these organizations in their journey, not only wherever they are in their journey, but how they can get on board if I’m not wrong.

Arif Khan: Yes.

Swapnil Bhartiya: So, it’s to trigger the… To be a catalyst of this movement, which is happening.

Arif Khan: Exactly. From the security point of view, of course, our [inaudible 00:20:28], which we are giving it to our customer, we do all kind of hardening and stuff like compliances. In India, there’s something called mighty, which has given data privatization standards. Yes, of course we similarly, Europe, we are also implementing GDRP and stuff like that. But yes, we are once again accelerating the edge movement.

Swapnil Bhartiya: Now I want to go a bit deeper into… Because you folks also are involved with a lot of open source technologies. You are a member of open infrastructure or OpenStack Foundation that used to be, you’re also part of Linux Foundation, [inaudible 00:21:07]. So, I also want to understand the open source aspect before I go there. I also want to know some of the core components of all these technology products that we have mentioned.

Arif Khan: Okay. So core components, from the product, which we are, of course, Kubernetes is critical, which is the core part of our offering. All the tooling, which we are building like orchestra or data operation KubeGuardian it’s around Kubernetes to make life easy, because Kubernetes is by far much more deployment, which we are seeing on the edge… On the central cloud of core OpenStack is the leading one. But from the edge perspective, Kubernetes is seen. Second major component from the technology aspect is OpenStack as well, OpenStack for the central cloud, because now these hyperlocal companies, they want to build their own capability of offering cloud IaaS, Paas, and SaaS and everybody don’t have the muscles like Amazon and others and RND investment, they can do it. So that’s where we are enabling those kind of technology for them. So, these are the mainly two components, which we talk about Kubernetes and OpenStack. And then we are building product around these two main component.

But if we talk about open source and what it means to us, I will come next, but I think, let’s little bit talk around open source, because open source, I think that as a concept also evolved in last 10 years. 10 years back, if someone has asked what an open source mean, sometime in your brain, you get an image that one guy wearing [inaudible 00:22:59], sitting in garage and doing some coding. Right. But now I think after 10 year, when we talk about open source, I think that guy has wearing some business suit and part of board boardroom. Right? So that’s, that’s evolution I have seen from open source. I think open source is now a key integral part of the big [inaudible 00:23:20] startup in any transformation. We have many examples where we have seen how open source has been disrupting industry by industry, whether it is telco, healthcare. Yeah. It is taking the lead.

And I think this is a nice way to collaborate, to evangelize and work together. Yeah. So, that’s more from open source, but what it means for us, of course, I’m a big fan of open source. I have been working in these OpenInfra Foundation from early 2010 itself from the Tableau release, which they were at that time. So we, as a company, are working very actively in CNCF in Linux foundation, as well as in OpenInfra Foundation. And Swapnil, even I’m so found that I’m one of the Linux foundation ambassador for an [inaudible 00:24:17] project. I am also driving a couple of projects within open source, as PTL. So open source is the key strategy for our company. It’s not just one of the fancy words which people use. I think it’s a part of our DNA.

And one tip, maybe for your viewers, I can give, if you really want to build a company of X size, you can build it with sales. And of course, some standard practices. But if you really want to build a company with 10X size, then evangelism is the new sales, right? And these communities are key for that. So that’s where you collaborate, your products, improves, you get a lot of networking. And then also you can get… You can have some good talent as well, right?

Swapnil Bhartiya: You mentioned that you are of course, Kubernetes is one of the foundations also, and OpenStack is as well. Now there are two different things, there are companies who consume a lot of open source and they build products, which is great. And there are companies who consume and give back. So when we look at Coredge, you did mention that you are part of a lot of Open Source Foundations, you are investors in a lot of projects. But if I understand… Not from your personal journey, but from a core perspective, how are you participating in open source projects?

Arif Khan: So, that’s the beauty because generally most of them see… And I wouldn’t take the names right now, but generally they see open source as where they can take code and then they can build a product and cash it out. But our philosophy is always when we are taking a lot of such cool code for building our own purpose, then we also contribute back… Lot of these features back to the community. So, our developers, Coredge developer, they are contributing in OpenInfra Foundation, they are working in CNCF, they are working in of course, their Linux foundation. And if we don’t go beyond that philosophy… Like if we don’t contribute back, I think open source somehow will slowly go into death, right?

So, I think more and more companies should understand that it’s not always about taking you. You have to give back to the community. And I think, yes, in coming years, you will see much more bigger contribution in terms of even products and some of the projects, which we are thinking that’s as a part of course, strength that in next six months. We are building something which works. And now we are thinking to contribute back that. So, yes.

Swapnil Bhartiya: Arif, thank you so much for taking time out today. And of course, talk about your journey, why you started the company, and also the whole… The next phase of… As you rightly said, we are in the middle of a movement or transformation that is going on towards the edge and how you are… As you said, accelerating that, being a catalyst in that journey for company. So thanks for sharing those insights. Thanks for sharing your story. And of course, thanks for doing all the open source that you folks are doing there. That was a great conversation. And I look forward to talk to you again soon. Thank you.

Arif Khan: Thank you so much, Swapnil. And as I said, I was very excited about this. I’ve been listening and I’m a big fan of TFiR. And so, it was lovely to be part of this. And thank you for hosting me. Looking forward to interact you more. Thank you.

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