Versa Makes Its Mark at CenturyLink
Versa has made its mark in the SD-WAN world with a prime reference account victory at CenturyLink, where it's the operator's lead virtualization partner for the SD-WAN and SD-Security services launched last week.
Mark Weiner, chief marketing officer at Versa Networks , says the vendor has been working at speed with CenturyLink Inc. (NYSE: CTL) on the software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) and software-defined security (SD-Security) solutions for about 12 to 15 months. Versa's mutli-tenant capabilities combined with its purely software-based functions drew CenturyLink in -- and this capability is unique in the vendor landscape, noted Weiner.
Versa's software-based instances of network functions are deployed on white boxes in CenturyLink's branch offices, and the multi-tenant [capabilities] are deployed at the headend with the SD-WAN controller in their POPs using X-86 common-off-the-shelf infrastructure, said Weiner. "[From] what I've seen with other SD-WAN offerings, I truly believe this is the first NFV and purely software-based SD-WAN offering." (See CenturyLink Selects Versa for SD-WAN & Security.)
CenturyLink is targeting its software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) services at business customers whose bandwidth needs have eclipsed T1s. It is offering two tiers of SD-WAN service -- SD-WAN and a premium SD-WAN service that includes security, next-generation firewall and app identification. Today, CenturyLink has 17 proof-of-concept customers, and the service will be generally available in Q3.
According to an interview last week with Eric Barrett, network product management director of CenturyLink, Versa's ability to beat out other vendors in a "bake-off," combined with the multi-tenant capabilities, were the main reasons the provider chose Versa. (See CenturyLink Sets Sights on SD-WAN.)
But Barrett noted that Versa Networks also stood out because of its rich history in the telecom world -- compared to other vendors born in the cloud and enterprise world. (See CenturyLink Throws Hat in SD-WAN Ring.)
Weiner said this goes back to the company's founders, brothers Kumar and Apurva Mehta, who built Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR)'s MX series from scratch. "They literally built the MX starting in '04 and today that is between 50% and 60% of Juniper's ongoing product revenue every quarter -- at least my Wall Street friends tell me that," said Weiner. "These folks knew MPLS cold. They knew BGP cold. These folks know networking from back in the days of ATM... they knew how to build what the carriers need yet they saw the trend of NFV and software. They can innovate with software, but they are coming at it from a network and telecom fundamental perspective."
For Versa, the CenturyLink win not only validates SD-WAN for the industry but it also validates "the new approach to building managed services isn't just marketing and smoke, but there really are benefits to applying NFV to change how you build and provide a managed service," said Weiner. "There's been NFV on the back-end, in the mobile world, EPC, and all that, but there hasn't been that many instances of a front-facing, customer-facing managed service, not with the old hardware, drop-in-a-box integrator but really multi-tenant, agility, commodity hardware -- all these NFV promises -- actually applied in a real service. It really shows how they can look at doing services differently."
While Weiner wouldn't state if the CenturyLink deal was a sign of things to come for Versa, he did say that it was part of "his yearly objective," and noted that, "We have many Tier 1 carriers having this in early or late stages of production trials -- multiple, very large names in North America and Asia. For example, when we launched the company, I had Colt and Orange on the homepage of our website on video."
Weiner added that he is continually amazed by the speed at which the industry is moving today -- especially in using a software-based, NFV approach. "The speed with which providers are doing this from concept to service introduction with initial customers in 12 months is something I have not seen since the early days of DSL back in the late 90s," he said.
— Elizabeth Miller Coyne, Managing Editor, Light Reading