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UNVEILED! California's Hottest SDN Startup, Versa Networks

Mitch Wagner

Light Reading has uncovered California's hottest stealth software-defined networking (SDN) startup, Versa Networks , a company founded by Silicon Valley networking royalty and backed by one of the biggest venture capital names in communications technology.

Versa, made up of former Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) executives, is currently in stealth mode, but we've found out that the company is working on a new software management system designed to bridge the datacenter and WAN (wide area network) to create a single virtual network that spans from the customer premises to the cloud.

Versa is looking to streamline the management of end-to-end connections by eliminating the need to switch between different networks to connect customers to the cloud. Companies would be able to use the same management tools and support staff for the LAN and WAN.

If Versa can deliver on its dream, that could be a huge deal for communications service providers (CSPs), as their future depends on the efficient delivery of services and applications from datacenter/cloud platforms across their managed networks to their customers' premises and devices.

"That's the Holy Grail they're working toward," said a former colleague of the founders, who spoke with Light Reading on condition of anonymity.

Versa's Santa Clara, California, Headquarters
Viewed from Google Earth. We have helpfully highlighted key features of the office. You're welcome!
Viewed from Google Earth. We have helpfully highlighted key features of the office. You're welcome!

In pursing this dream, Versa puts itself into competition with networking superpowers Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Juniper, and more. (See SDN's Northbound Ascent, Embrane Helps Cisco Build Its SDN Strategy, and Blessed Are the SDN Switchmakers.)

But Versa, under the leadership of co-founders Kumar and Apurva Mehta, has the brains to do it.

"The Mehta brothers" -- that sounds like they should be James Bond supervillains, complete with a white cat. But these siblings are engineering geniuses who previously plied their trade at Juniper Networks, where Kumar was VP of engineering and Apurva the CTO and chief architect for the mobility business unit.

"Those guys I would say are among the top networking engineers in the valley," said a former colleague of the Mehtas, who also requested anonymity. "They built the Juniper MX core switch from start to finish. [That's] a billion-a-quarter business for Juniper. There are very few people in the industry who have the mind to wake up every single morning and think all day and every day about how you move packets. That's what they do." (See Juniper Primes Its Edge Router Lineup.)

He noted that Sequoia Capital invested $14.4 million in Versa, "which is a huge Series A." He added, "Series A are usually two-handed deals with two VCs. But Sequoia didn't want anyone else, so they took it all."

Next page: Versa's plan and open positions.

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User Rank: Lightning
2/21/2014 | 5:11:33 PM
Re: This is going to shake things up....
Looks like the investment was made in 2012 http://venturebeat.com/2012/11/27/vice-or-versa-either-way-stealth-networking-startup-gets-14-35m/
R Clark
R Clark,
User Rank: Blogger
2/20/2014 | 1:20:21 AM
Nice day
The Sequoia guys must be feeling good today with their SDN play getting quality Light Reading airtime, but owning a piece of WhatsApp probably helped.
User Rank: Blogger
2/19/2014 | 3:52:32 PM
Re: Memories

Mobile taxi apps are about the most dotcom-ish things on wheels right now. Look at the amount of money thrown at them in 2013: http://www.lightreading.com/services-apps/mobile-services/mobile-services-are-next-uber-trend/a/d-id/705859
sam masud
sam masud,
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/19/2014 | 3:24:01 PM
Every time the words "hot" and "SDN" are attached to a vendor (particularly one that apparently hasn't sold anything) I feel nostalgia for the old dotcom days.
Steve Saunders
Steve Saunders,
User Rank: Blogger
2/19/2014 | 1:45:52 PM
oh wow
An exclusive story about business, technology, the technology of business, and people - with a laugh out loud snort coffee thru your nose humorous graphic? Hmmmm.

1. I feel like i just got transported back 12 years (so why aren't I thinner?)

2. Best story I've read on LR this year... kudos and points, Mitchell.


Carol Wilson
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
2/19/2014 | 12:52:07 PM
Pursuing the Holy Grail
Versa's area of focus is intriguing - streamlining end-to-end management of network connections is, indeed, the Holy Grail. 

It will be interesting to see what they bring to the party as a start-up, not having to deal with any particular set of hardware or legacy systems. 
Sarah Thomas
Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
2/19/2014 | 11:04:19 AM
Now hiring?
Your post is going to help Versa in its recruiting efforts. Bear-fighting, bowling, and UFOs?? Startups always have the coolest digs.
User Rank: Blogger
2/19/2014 | 10:23:23 AM
More ex-Juniper staff...
The apparent exodus of technologists from Juniper is fueling the SDN revolution.
User Rank: Blogger
2/19/2014 | 10:17:28 AM
This is going to shake things up....
If the Mehta brothers are as gifted as Sequoia's backing suggests, this could make some network operators very excited and some other vendors very nervous... 
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