Virtual chaos is still chaos

26 June 2018 | Natalie Bannerman

“Just because you’ve moved to virtualisation, if you haven’t changed the operating model, automated and made things simpler, it’s still chaos,” says Kelly Ahuja, CEO of Versa Networks.

SD-WAN is predicted to become a $2.5 billion market by the year 2021, with the likes of Aryaka, VMware/Velocloud, and Silver Peak set to exceed approximately $100 million in annual revenue in 2018 alone.

As the company celebrates a major milestone with the announcement that it has garnered more than 150,000 contracted licenses worldwide, we asked Ahuja what the key differentiator is for Versa over its many competitors.

"We are the only ones that have integrated networking and security into a single solution. And when I say security I mean a full security stack – next-gen firewall, URL filtering, IPS, IDS - all those components built-in, into the software."

As a result Ahuja says that its customers can use "one piece, one element, one software, to deploy at every location and get network and security altogether."

"The other thing we do is software only. So we sell you software, we tell you which hardware our software runs on and you can go and get the hardware yourself. Our customers don’t have to buy hardware from us, they can buy hardware from anyone."

kelly ahuja mountain 680 widrh

He goes on to mention another unique element to the Versa offering is this idea of micro-segmentation that gives even greater flexibility and agility to the end user

"Micro-segmentation is becoming extremely important to enterprises. For example in a retail environment they might want to take front office and back office and turn it into two separate segments. And isolate the traffic, management of that traffic isolated, offer guest Wifi but not have them on the same network etc. – we’re the only ones providing a true micro segmentation architecture."

But Ahuja isn’t worried too much about competition, news of its 150,000 contracted licenses only cements Versa’s position in the market and news that Ahuja is directly in line with the company’s wider business strategy.

"We’ve been executing on our strategy by both our technology strategy and driving innovation as well as our go to market strategy," explains Ahuja. "Our initial go to market strategy was to enable service providers first, as many enterprises will continue to rely on the service provider, from whom they are buying their MPLS networks or broadband connections to provide them a managed service. Especially enterprises that have small IT organisations that do not have the engineering or operational capability to take on some of those tasks."

"But as we evolved our go to market strategy we found that there was a lot of large enterprises wanted to connect with us directly and didn’t necessarily want a managed service from their service provider, because they were large enough and had big enough IT organisations and resources to do it themselves. So our dual pronged strategy is working because we now have customers that coming to us through our managed service provider channel, directly and through our systems reseller integrations channel."

But ever ambitious, Ahuja says "I’m always looking to do better" and that "the market is growing and we believe we’re [Versa Networks] growing as good if not better than the market itself."

As the market continues to grow, Ahuja has noticed a number of challenges around the deployment of virtualisation solutions, and that is some cases it only serves to digitise processes not simply or improve them.

"There’s different types of virtualisation solutions. Taking a solution, that could be a rack and stack of appliances and just converting them into virtual functions and stich them together on a virtual infrastructure and deploy it on a device, that approach sounds really interesting but all it does is take that physical complexity and converts it to virtual environment. Virtual chaos is still chaos."

But Versa serves to do the complete opposite. "So what we’ve done is we’ve actually simplified some of the fundamentals, so instead of a multiple function approach, virtual network function approach, our approach is to take all these functions and put them into a single piece of software."

"So there’s a lot of simplicity that we’ve built around how do you build, configure, manage, operate, visualisation on what’s going on, but most importantly much better total cost of ownership than the current architectures," says Ahuja.

With a career that spans over 20 years in the technology sector, Ahuja has been present for a number of industry transitions. From the 90’s where there was huge growth in building out the internet and MPLS networks, post when he was present for when the mobile internet was thriving. And he says the dynamic has changed in the market has changed.

"What I sensed before I joined Versa was an inflection point coming, an inflection point that I think has really come. No one is asking us why SD-WAN is the solution or what is SD-WAN, what they’re really asking us is how do you do it, how quickly can I have it and how much does it cost? So that I really think is key," he says.

A quick check on the company website and you’ll be bombarded with announcements of news partnerships, contracts and deals with various companies in the sector, but digging down on two in particular, I was curious to know the significance of being added to such a vast ecosystem as Verizon and what is software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) for cloud voice services such as the likes with S-Net.

"Verizon is a very important partner because they have a very broad reach across the globe for their large enterprise business. First they added us to their VNF portfolio (catalogue of functions), in addition they’ve taken us into their Verizon business markets – offering the same network and security simplicity."

As for the S-Net partnership Ahuja says: "Because of things like lag, low latency and jitter UCaaS providers like S-Net need to be able to assure quality of service. So they along with and 20 UCaaS providers we have, use our SD-WAN technology with a broadband connection to deliver voice and video services over the internet with much better reliability and performance."

It seems almost redundant to say that the future for Versa Network is incredibly bright, in Futurioms 2018 SD-WAN Growth Outlook report it named Versa as one of the top contenders for an initial public offering (IPO) or major acquisition in the next few years, due to its increasing momentum.

But that doesn’t matter for Ahuja and he says the company will continue on at full speed. "We’re continuing our expansion of the business, its global growth. So while we have 50 service providers our goal is to double that as quickly as we can and even in enterprise we want to double, quadruple our customer-base as well as help them deploy their networks with an SD-WAN and NFV security architecture so that we continue to grow our business."

Topics: Versa Networks, Kelly Ahuja, SD-WAN, Network, MPLS, automation, software