AiThority Interview with Cliff Duffey, President and Founder at Cybera
Know My Company
What drove you to found Cybera, and what is your role today?
When I founded Cybera, it was all about trying to find a relatively simple solution to a very complex problem. Having been in the technology and communications industry over my entire career, I realized that a lot of businesses were struggling to capitalize on the full promise of technology. They wanted to bridge their legacy infrastructure with the newer technology that was driving digital transformation.
This was especially the case for highly distributed businesses where you might have skilled IT personnel and resources at the corporate level but not in the field. Too often it seemed as though remote locations and individual stores were basically left to fend for themselves. And those were the types of businesses where the owner or operator had virtually no technical expertise whatsoever.
I felt as though we could take a lot of burden off those remote locations, simplify how they connected with their corporate offices, and get them up to speed from a technology standpoint. But the real challenge was figuring out how to do that in a very simple and cost-effective manner. And, like a lot of things in the business world, the need for security and compliance were at the forefront of this challenge. That essentially became the blueprint for Cybera as we know it today.
Today, I’m currently serving as the president of Cybera. Having Andrew Lev as our company CEO has freed me up to focus on driving some strategic initiatives and strengthening relationships with our key customers and partners. I’m also able to get more involved in various industry events and make sure Cybera is closely aligned with the latest technological advances and consumer trends. I now have a good balance of maintaining a strategic focus but getting heavily involved in certain other projects when it makes sense.
What challenges exist and are emerging around today’s application requirements – for instance around the edge, mobile, AI and ML – that traditional networking and VPN technologies are unable to address?
Well, as you’re likely aware, Cybera is focused on the network edge. In other words, we’re taking what the industry knows as software-defined WAN, or SD-WAN, and extending it to locations and devices that have never really been connected before. That’s the sweet spot for us: businesses that have 10’s to 1,000’s of locations which don’t have the remote technology resources to manage all the complexity that comes with securely networking their sites and the growing number of IoT devices.
With consumer expectations continually rising, no one is immune from the growing complexity of secure networking. Even the smallest remote store or individual IoT devices might need to deliver the same type of customer experience as the largest retail locations.
This is where Cybera makes a big difference in helping distributed enterprises quickly roll out new revenue-generating apps and services in record time. It wasn’t very long ago that companies would spend months to deploy new apps or make network updates across their environment. Now they can deploy apps in just hours or days. That’s a huge benefit in terms of reducing time-to-market and growing revenue. It’s also a great way to reduce costs if you don’t have to send IT to staff out into the field every time you want to make a change. Now everything can happen seamlessly through the cloud in real-time.
What issues are being more prevalent in particular verticals and sizes of the companies?
Although all sizes of businesses face the dual impact of budget constraints and rising consumer expectations, their ability to balance the two varies greatly. For instance, the IT decision-makers work within a massive company such as Shell have very different perspectives than someone who might operate a handful of Arby’s restaurants. Their core issues might be similar, but their viewpoints on how to solve those issues can be very different.
However, when it comes to technology, the rule today is you can’t settle for the status quo or you’ll quickly get left behind. The largest enterprises generally have the IT resources to stay on top of technology advancements and strategic industry trends. But even a large well-known brand is only as good as a customer’s last interaction with that brand. Customers don’t care what happens at the corporate headquarters, but they absolutely care whether their local convenience store has the right kind of food or drinks they want. That’s why it’s so important to think of the distributed enterprise as a complete entity.
In terms of verticals, we’re well entrenched in the retail and hospitality and are the broad market leader in certain sub-verticals like fuel retain and convenience due to their unique network challenges. We are also having new growth in healthcare service chains like doctor/dental clinics, rehab centers, dialysis clinics, and network-enabled medical devices. There are different nuances in these verticals, but they all have to worry about network security and compliance while servicing clients and patients who expect much more than they did just a few years ago—or even yesterday.
How do you see the SD-WAN application and security services market evolving over the next few years? What do you predict will be the key drivers? What role will AI play?
As I mentioned earlier, our mission is to extend SD-WAN to the network edge and beyond. When everyone else is talking about SD-WAN, they’re talking about connecting branches. That’s what the enterprise WAN has done. But we’re extending the proven SD-WAN advantages all the way out to the locations and IoT devices that have been underserved for far too long.
We’re also focused on continuing to strengthen security and protect against an ever-evolving threat landscape. That’s partly why we founded the company, and it remains a key competitive differentiator for us. So, security is always at the top of the list. And, with human nature being what it is, security will only become even more critical in the future.
In fact, our secure services framework is built upon the concept of micro-segmentation so that each application can operate within its own virtual network. This approach works well for customers who want to customize security policies to match the unique requirements of each application.
Machine Learning and AI could also provide massive dividends for our customers. Being able to capture and analyze massive amounts of data from all over the enterprise in real-time could lead to all sorts of business revelations. In turn, if you can turn all that data into actionable insight and deliver it as a solution or service your customers are asking for, there’s a lot of potential upsides.
What are the unique features of Cybera’s technology, and how is it able to address the aforementioned challenges? What other benefits does it provide?
If I were to summarize our technology, I’d say that Cybera uniquely combines SD-WAN Edge services with advanced security and delivers a cloud-based solution to the far reaches of highly distributed enterprises. In other words, we provide the most scalable SD-WAN Edge solution for the broadest network deployments—with the ultimate goal of helping our customers unlock new business opportunities.
In terms of tangible business benefits, we lower network complexity and costs by significantly reducing the number of network devices and connections needed at a given location. Our platform creates multiple secure overlay networks on top of any underlying physical network. This consolidates the functions of multiple network devices into a single all-in-one device.
By securely connecting our customers’ businesses to the cloud, we alleviate their worry in terms of keeping critical apps available, maximizing uptime, and taking a lot of business risk out of the equation. But it all comes back to freeing up our customers to focus on what they do best and helping them act upon new business opportunities.
You recently announced that you are working with Shell to help enable its EMV chip card compliance. What is your contribution to Shell?
With Shell, it all starts with having a fantastic partner to work with. The team at Shell knows they can’t be passive with their network, so they’re continually embracing new technologies that will keep them at the top of the industry.
We’ve partnered with Shell to empower the secure networking of their stores’ payment systems, loyalty programs, tank monitoring, in-store kiosks, and environmental controls at about 15,000 North American locations, and are working on new projects that could extend our services to a more global scale.
In particular, we’re helping Shell operators maximize the value of their retail footprint and generate growth in an extremely competitive industry. That means helping them rapidly deploy new apps and services that earn the trust and loyalty of their customers. As part of the EMV compliance strategy, the Cybera cloud will enable secure payment transactions and other application support at all Shell outdoor pumps.
Is the Oil & Gas industry a key market for Cybera? Why?
The fuel retail market—and the related convenience store market—is extremely important to us. We also believe that Cybera offers a lot of insight and expertise because we’re so tightly integrated with many of the leading brands. In addition, we’re closely aligned with the key vendors the petroleum brands utilize, so we’ve built up quite a bit of equity in this industry.
Many of these petroleum brands have turned to Cybera because we’ve already shown how we can help them overcome some particularly difficult business obstacles. Imagine having 1,000’s of franchisees spread across the U.S.—from virtually every large city to extremely rural areas. How do you deliver a consistent customer experience across such a far-flung and diverse set of business locations?
It’s not easy. It takes a true partnership of a forward-thinking company, the right technology, and innovative vendors that can reduce complexity to deliver a real-world solution. Whether a fuel station needs to meet the 2020 Outdoor EMV chip card mandate or a convenience store needs to ensure PCI compliance for its POS systems, Cybera delivers the type of secure managed network and application services that provide a clear competitive advantage.
If you could apply AI to any area of your life, what would it be and why?
I live in “The Music City” (Nashville), and happen to be a passionate audiophile and music lover. In all of my music listening experience, I have found that the acoustics of a room has more effect on the pleasing sound of the music than purchasing more expensive audio equipment. There are a growing number of products which cure some of the room acoustic problems, but they are cumbersome, complex, and don’t adapt to changing conditions or music types. Because of my hobbyist passion, I’ve actually been tinkering with an expert system which could learn to adapt room acoustic behavior based on a user’s listening habits and musical preferences. Hmm… Maybe there is a new business idea in there, so I should probably leave the rest up to the imagination.
Thank you, Cliff! That was fun and hope to see you back on AiThority soon.
Cliff Duffey is a President and Founder at Cybera
Cybera fundamentally changes the way distributed businesses use technology. Our purpose-built network services platform empowers companies with many remote business locations to rapidly deploy, secure, and optimize new cloud-based applications and services. This includes retail, hospitality, financial services, and healthcare organizations with hundreds or even thousands of remote sites. In fact, thousands of companies rely on Cybera technology, including the world’s largest SD-WAN deployment with more than 16,000 locations. Cybera has been named an IDC Innovator and a Gartner Cool Vendor, and recognized seven times by Inc. 5000 as one of America’s fastest-growing private companies.