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Big50-2018 Challenge 1 Winner: Versa Networks


The second winner of the Art of Disruption challenge is Versa Networks, an SD-WAN startup. (For an overview of this challenge, go here:Challenge 1 Overview.)

Founded in 2012, backed by nearly $112 million in VC funding, and led by industry veteran Kelly Ahuja, who spent 18 years at Cisco, Versa offers SD-WAN, routing, and managed security services.

I recently wrote about Versa for Network World, naming them a Hot SD-WAN startup to watch . Since that story ran in June, Versa has added new named customers, expanded its footprint in Africa, and won several industry awards.

We put Versa Networks’ Head of Worldwide Marketing, Atchison Frazer, on the hot seat to learn why Versa could be the next big thing in enterprise networking.

(Answers have been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.)

Startup50:What is the biggest trend disrupting your market sector?

Atchison Frazer, Versa Networks:The adoption of SaaS applications and the corresponding need for multi-cloud architectures.

Startup50:How are those trends impacting enterprise networking?

Versa Networks:As enterprises consume more applications as services, they must also move to distributed cloud strategies. This is driving innovation at the WAN edge, most notably with software-defined networking.

With multi-cloud architectures, enterprises also recognize the need for alternative connectivity options to traditional MPLS, as the cost per Mbps can be prohibitive. To ensure a consistent end-user experience across the enterprise, they need more bandwidth capacity and distributed security at branch locations, but without increasing WAN operational complexity or costs.

Existing legacy WANs are not optimized from a price/performance perspective to provide secure and dynamic connectivity across public Internet transport to these new applications and services.

In addition, services like VoIP and productivity applications like Office 365 need not only bandwidth, but also security at the edge. The need for more bandwidth, as well as for application-aware infrastructure, multi-cloud support, and diverse transport for each branch is driving enterprises to move to software-defined WANs (SD-WANs).

Startup50:Could you give us an overview of the software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) market opportunity?

Versa:According to IDC, SD-WAN will represent a $4.5-billion-dollar market by 2022 . Gartner predicts a rapidly expanding market too, predicting that by year-end 2023, more than 90% of WAN edge infrastructure refresh initiatives will be based on virtualized customer premises equipment (vCPE) platforms or SD-WAN software/appliances versus traditional routers.

Startup50:What problems do enterprises encounter as they try to cope with these new realities?

Versa:Complexity and cost are two big problems.

Many enterprises are deploying physically separate networks to support direct Internet access to increase per-branch bandwidth and also increasing existing MPLS access, while leveraging existing centralized legacy security architectures.

This increases existing bandwidth capacity per site, but it also increases complexity and locks businesses into suboptimal architectures for delivering reliable, high-performance end user experiences for new applications and services.

Startup50:You mentioned cost as a problem, as well.

Versa:Yes. Traditional branch bandwidth today via private leased-line connectivity (MPLS) is usually between 1.5 Mbps to 25 Mbps per branch. The average cost is approximately $75 per Mb. In comparison, dedicated and symmetric broadband (direct Internet) averages $3 per Mbps, a significant cost savings.

Since organizations must keep increasing their bandwidth capacity by 10-100x per location just to support new applications and services, they quickly learn that continuing to invest in private WAN circuits is prohibitively expensive.

But it’s not just expensive, but also time consuming. Average circuity provisioning times range from 1 month if the installation goes smoothly to as long as 6 months in worst case scenarios. In comparison, broadband or LTE access can be provisioned in as little as a single day.

Startup50:Versa focuses on delivering security alongside networking. What’s wrong with existing, centralized security?

Versa:The converging trends of virtualized infrastructure, Internet of Things, cloud services and mobile devices have transformed the network perimeter, making access and application policies far more difficult to manage and the edge far less secure. The pain points of managing complexity, security, and physical network equipment on site, while also managing multiple vendors, architectures, and service level agreements all add up to create unsustainable costs and risks.

Startup50:Give us a short overview of your SD-WAN service.

Versa:Versa’s Secure Cloud IP platform delivers Secure SD-WAN to multinational enterprises. Versa Secure Cloud enables enterprises to deploy a zero-touch, provisioned, transport-agnostic WAN fabric with automated application-intelligence routing and security policies. This provides a secure user-experience driven by best-path optimization.

Enterprises are able to deploy active/active hybrid WANs, increasing reliability, bandwidth, and affordability. Now, new sites can rapidly connect to new SaaS and multi-cloud services.

Startup50:Why do you believe your startup is the one that can successfully challenge the status quo?

Versa:We are the only vendor to provide a cloud-native multi-tenant platform with integrated networking, security, and cloud intelligence in a single software stack for the WAN edge.

Unlike other point SD-WAN vendors, Versa enables a software-defined infrastructure that consolidates networking and security into a unified software services platform that software-defines WAN and cloud edge infrastructure, simplifying both the operator infrastructure and customer footprint by eliminating the need for multiple point hardware devices and services.

The flexibility of the platform not only enables operators to deploy Versa as a networking and security service, but they can also deploy Versa as the SW vCPE, enabling additional managed third-party virtual services to be deployed on the platform. This modernizes operations for service providers at a reduced cost (from service consolidation).

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