This featured interview with Versa Networks CEO and Founder, Kumar Mehta, is a part of the ONUG CEO Corner Series.
In the last few years, the rise of cloud computing and its complexities has given rise to a crop of precocious start-ups, causing a gradual but dramatic shift in the networking industry.
Most enterprises, typically tied to older, hardware-based networking architectures, are weighed down by vendor lock-ins, computing silos, and exorbitant operational costs. The mix of cloud computing into this equation has raised serious security, scaling and monumental network management issues. This climate has made for a great opening for the start-ups rolling out comprehensive, secure, scalable, yet simple software defined networking solutions that work with hybrid cloud computing environments.
These companies, along with leading, established providers, are crucial to ONUG’s goal to bring SDN open solutions to the enterprise. In an effort to get a better understanding of the on-going vision of these start-up and incumbent providers, ONUG brings you the CEO Corner Series.
CEO and Founder, Versa Networks
ONUG: What market trends and shifts motivated you to start Versa Networks?
Mehta: The rigid hardware-based approach to networking previously made it challenging for service provider and enterprise constituencies to rapidly deliver services to their customers. Networks needed programmability and agility to allow them to adapt as quickly as applications. The ultimate goal is to make the network a strategic asset, rather than a constraint for meeting strategic business needs. This is what inspired us to form Versa Networks in the fall of 2012.
ONUG: Who are your investors and how much is your funding to date?
Mehta: We have had two rounds – the first one was for $14.4 million, and the second round was for $29 million. The chief investors are Sequoia Capital and Mayfield Fund while Verizon Ventures has joined the group recently.
ONUG: Have you announced your products?
Mehta: We are still in stealth mode but we will be coming out of it soon. This, however, has not impeded us from getting a broad acceptance from our customers.
We have more than 25 ongoing PoCs with some major enterprises and national service providers. We have spent the last two years collaborating with several innovative and very large customers. This mutual development and deployment process has resulted in a comprehensive network services virtualization (NSV) and software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) product portfolio and given us our early traction.
ONUG: NSV and SD-WAN are terms used to define Versa Networks’ market. Specifically, what is Versa Networks’ forte?
Mehta: We provide carrier-grade and software-based virtualized networking products that accelerate the deployment of new network connectivity and security services while driving significant CAPEX and OPEX reductions. Prior to founding Versa Networks, our engineering team designed and built true carrier-grade networking products at Juniper Networks, which are deployed in some of the largest global carrier networks.
Our expertise is in the handling, editing, manipulating, managing, and monitoring of network traffic at a carrier-level requirement and scale. We have coupled that expertise with innovation in the rapidly evolving areas of NSV and SD-WAN to enable the enterprise network to provide services at a level of flexibility, agility, manageability, and elasticity which have not previously been possible through hardware-based solutions.
At a high-level, we are focusing on next-generation branch network connectivity and the security services associated with that connectivity service. Those robust services can be located either in the cloud, the customer’s premises, or a hybrid deployment.
Topping that off, we have a creative packaging and pricing model for our NSV and SD-WAN solutions “as services” that significantly reduces up-front capital and ongoing operating costs.
ONUG: Who are your primary competitors?
Mehta: We consider many of the incumbent networking vendors as our primary competitors.
ONUG: To ONUG, open solutions and vendor interoperability are key issues. What are your thoughts on when and how will the industry meet those demands?
Mehta: Broad interoperability will occur over the next two to five years. Change is never good for the large incumbent vendors. They are the ones disproportionally advantaged by the status quo. It is among startups in the NSV and SD-WAN sectors, and among user communities like ONUG, that the foundational values of openness, interoperability, and transparency are pushed forward with innovation and a demand for change. Our mutual challenge is it to work together to redefine a new approach to networking and build open multi-vendor networks.
Toward that end, Versa today supports a diverse set of SDN controllers, hypervisors, containers and cloud management systems. Our services can be chosen and deployed with other vendors’ services and service-chained through SDN controllers or our own service-chaining logic. The networking industry wants open APIs and a loose coupling of different services to mix and match different products – and that is what we do. We are also active contributors to the open source community.
ONUG: What are your major challenges in the next 18 months?
Mehta: Being at the cusp of significant technology innovation, one of our main challenges will be getting industry-wide adoption of this software in the face of legacy hardware-based architectures and models. However, we have already experienced strong traction from service providers. As we bring this carrier-grade solution to enterprise customers, we will need to be mindful in scaling out our company to meet the demands as this innovative technology gains traction in the broad carrier and enterprise markets.