Zenlayer is an edge cloud services provider providing complete networking solutions around the world. Businesses utilize Zenlayer’s software-defined platform to instantly enable worldwide connectivity and deliver the superior digital user experience. We’ve talked with Joe Zhu, Zenlayer’s Founder and CEO about the history of Zenlayer and the cloud computing industry.
Could you please tell us a brief history of the Zenlayer? What services does Zenlayer provide?
Zenlayer is an edge cloud services provider. We help businesses improve the digital experience for their users worldwide by lowering latency. We have over 160 edge PoPs spread across six continents, which let us enable companies to deploy infrastructure close to their users.
One of our most popular services is Bare Metal Cloud, which lets businesses instantly spin up dedicated servers that we have already deployed in more than 20 countries around the world. We also offer instant networks via Cloud Networking, SaaS acceleration with Cloud WAN, next-generation content delivery through Edge Computing Network, and custom deployments, colocation, and managed hosting via our Edge Data Center Services.
All of these services lower latency and increase network reliability by using our private global network and reducing the distance between servers and users. Our customers include many real-time interactive applications, such as gaming, streaming, video conferencing, online education, etc. By using our services, they’re able to enjoy more satisfied users, higher retention, better reviews/word of mouth, and overall greater revenue.
What were the milestones in your story since the company was founded?
Zenlayer was founded in 2014. Since then, some of our biggest milestones have been launching our self-service portal in 2016, our successful Series A funding in 2017, which raised $10 million, reaching 100 data centers worldwide in 2018, acquiring DAHO Networks in 2019, and our Series B funding round, also in 2019 ($30 million).
How does COVID-19 affect cloud computing? What is required for infrastructures to cope with the ever-growing demand for data volume and speed?
These recent months have been a real stress test for networks around the world. You might have heard that in Europe, streaming companies like Netflix voluntarily reduced some of their bitrates so as to lower data consumption during the surge in watching television and movies at home. Gaming companies have similarly seen huge increases in players online at the same time, and all of those users are sending data to and from servers at tremendous rates while expecting the same fast speeds they usually get.
The short-term way for businesses to handle surges in users is to “burst” into the cloud – using servers available on-demand from public clouds, like AWS, Google, or Azure. These public clouds have huge elasticity so they’re great for sudden user spikes. The difficulty with public clouds, however, is that your application may be running on the same server as multiple other applications, and you have little control over where your data is located. That makes it harder to guarantee low latency to all users. And the increased demand due to COVID-19 is no longer an unexpected spike but instead predictable and sustained.
A private cloud, like our Bare Metal Cloud service, guarantees your servers are dedicated to you (no “noisy neighbors”) and gives you complete control over where each server is located and its configuration. Everything is very transparent, and we have direct connections available to all major public clouds so bursting is seamless.
The industry as a whole has been focused on essentially “the same but more.” That is more servers, more connections, more cables, more data centers, and so on. There are trends within those, but for the most part the crisis is only accelerating what was already happening. For example, as the edge becomes more and more important to companies looking for low latency it becomes more popular to create many small, dispersed data centers rather than a few huge, central ones. Users will always want faster speeds no matter what the circumstances.
How has Zenlayer responded to the COVID-19 crisis?
We’ve been increasing deployments of new servers and connections as quickly as possible, but there have been challenges. We’ve dealt with cities going into lockdown just as we needed to transport crucial equipment, and reduced crews as we limit exposure as much as possible. Despite that, there have only been a few delays in our deployment calendar, and I’ve been incredibly proud of how every member of the team has stepped up to “wow” our customers.
This has also been a good internal use case for our products. With the exception of employees installing and managing equipment, everyone at Zenlayer has been working remotely. In our US offices, remote work has been going for four months already, and of course, employees still need access to apps like Office365, Salesforce, and our company intranet. As it happens, accelerating access to those is exactly what our Cloud WAN product does. I’m proud to say that the transition from in-office to work from home has been incredibly smooth.
Zenlayer is an Equinix Platinum Partner and a Gold Partner to Dell and AWS. What does that mean for Zenlayer?
Because Zenlayer provides Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), we’re well-positioned to partner with data centers and public clouds. For example, we can direct customers of our colocation service to an Equinix data center, while if Equinix has a customer in need of an instant global network they’ll refer that customer to us. We also provide joint solutions, such as our complete gaming solution for online game companies expanding in emerging markets such as China, India, and Brazil.
When it comes to Dell, their PowerEdge Servers form the heart of our Bare Metal Cloud service. In turn, provides Zenlayer provides Dell Technologies with more ways to offer global connectivity solutions, particularly when reaching China and other emerging markets.
Amazon is a natural partner for our Cloud Networking product. We make it easy for our customers to burst into the cloud during demand spikes, and provide connections to AWS on-demand at speeds ranging from as little as 1 Mbps all the way up to 10 Gbps. In China, Zenlayer is an AWS Preferred Hybrid Cloud and Multi-Cloud Connectivity Partner for that reason.
What is Zenlayer’s plan to bring edge cloud services to emerging markets and why?
Our clients’ users are located all over the world, so we make sure our services are too. Our biggest focus is on emerging markets, such as China, India, Southeast Asia, South America, Russia, Middle East, Africa, etc. Of our 160+ PoPs, more than 120 are located in these regions. These markets have enormous growth potential but are currently underserved by the digital industry.
According to the IMF, the fastest growing economies in the past decade have been in Southeast Asia and Africa, and, of course, China. However, local regulations and inconsistent infrastructure can make them hard for outside businesses to penetrate. Not only does Zenlayer provide our edge cloud services in these markets, but we also offer expert guidance for every step. For example, in China, we are a fully licensed CDN provider, and in Brazil, we help clients navigate getting deliveries quickly through customs.
What is Zenlayer Cloud Networking service? Which technologies do you use and what infrastructure do you provide?
Zenlayer Cloud Networking allows companies to create private networks on-demand. Instant connections are available to public clouds (AWS, Azure, Google Cloud, Alibaba Cloud, UCloud, and Tencent Cloud) and data centers around the world. Combined with our Bare Metal Cloud, you can have both servers and a network up and running within minutes.
Furthermore, Cloud Networking connections use our global, private backbone. This means customers can avoid latency caused by public internet congestion, reducing latency, and jitter by up to 40% during peak periods.
What is Cloud WAN? What are the main differences between traditional SD-WAN and Zenlayer Cloud WAN?
Cloud WAN is a software-defined approach to managing wide-area networks. It provides dynamic connectivity between branch offices, data centers, and clouds. Where our service differs from traditional SD-WAN is our focus on Software as a Service (SaaS) acceleration. Information and communication technology downtime or degradation costs North American organizations $700 billion every year, according to IHS Markit.
By using Cloud WAN, businesses can accelerate access to cloud-based applications like Office365, Zoom, a G-Suite to improve productivity with increased speeds and reduced upload times. Customers can specify the quality of service (QoS) and connection types based on application importance. Our customers in emerging markets find the service particularly useful for application access in and out of China, India, and other regions. In fact, in China, we are an official Office 365 Acceleration Solution Partner.