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
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."
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
"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
"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
It seems almost redundant to say that the future for Versa
Network is incredibly bright, in
Futuriom’s 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."