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Startup Versa Announces 'Carrier-Grade' Multi-Tenant NFV Platform

Mitch Wagner
11/10/2015
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Startup Versa Networks is officially decloaking from the least stealthiest pre-launch mode ever, shipping a software platform designed to allow service providers to meet their enterprise customers' needs for networking agility between branches and in multi-tenant environments.

The Versa Networks software, announced Tuesday, combines an SDN-WAN management platform with an infrastructure that lets service providers deploy VNFs in the cloud or on customer premises -- whatever configurations makes sense for the enterprise customer.

For example, a small enterprise might prefer to run all its VNFs in the cloud, and let the service provider manage everything. However, a large enterprise -- or any enterprise with regulatory constraints -- might prefer to have firewall, encryption and other network functions running locally, on customer premises equipment (CPE), Versa says.

"It allows you to deploy centrally and decide what you want on the premises," CEO Kumar Mehta, a Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) veteran who led development of that company's multi-billion-dollar MX router series, tells Light Reading.

The Versa software also lets service providers manage SD-WAN intelligently to move workloads between expensive, reliable MPLS networks and less reliable -- but less costly -- public Internet connections.

Founded in 2012, Versa was in stealth mode for years, but it hasn't been very stealthy about it. The company has exhibited and presented at conferences, and CEO Mehta gave a video interview with Light Reading CEO Steve Saunders in August.

We wrote about Versa several times over the past two years:

The Versa platform is designed to be easy to upgrade and manage, and work well in a multi-tenant environment, Mehta says.

Versa says it has 45 proofs of concept, field trials and production deployments underway, with ten revenue-paying customers, including Orange Business Services , Colt Technology Services Group Ltd and RCN Corp. , as well as very large enterprise customers. (See Orange Unveils NFV-Based Offering for SMBs.)

The software, available now, comprises Versa FlexNFV, providing virtualized network and security with carrier-grade multi-tenancy, programmability, service chaining, elasticity and deployment; Versa Director, for control and management of connectivity and services; and Versa Analytics, for control, visibility, prediction and adaptability, Versa says.

How It Works
Versa describes its NFV architecture. (Source: Versa.)
Versa describes its NFV architecture. (Source: Versa.)

The platform combines vCPE, SD-WAN and security to provide networking for branches and managed service providers. The software provides centralized management, zero-touch provisioning, a secure overlay network and application-aware routing. The application-aware routing software recognizes 2,500 apps from Versa and other vendors, Versa says.

Versa is "attacking a pretty important new marketplace," combining NFV, SD-WAN and CPE, says Infonetics analyst Cliff Grossner. "It's the right time to be attacking the market."

Versa faces competition from the comms industry's big guns, including Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) and Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), but is well-positioned against that competition because of the comprehensiveness of the platform, Grossner says. Versa will likely need to partner with big companies to get in the door with comms providers, because comms companies look to big vendors, with whom they have long, trusted partnerships, first. "You have to find your way into a bigger ecosystem," Grossner says. In the long run, Versa may find itself being acquired, as happened with Tail-f and Cisco.

Versa's target market is comms companies providing WAN and managed services, looking to use software running on commodity hardware to provide their networks with necessary agility -- key characteristics of the New IP. Versa places the size of that market at $40 billion.

Versa differentiates by allowing service providers and enterprises to choose where to run VNFs -- on customer premises or in the cloud. "I can put it in the branch," CMO Mark Weiner tells Light Reading. "Or I can put it in the head end -- the next-generation POP or data center -- and make the branch real skinny. I can put it all together with my kit of Lego."


Find out more about network functions virtualization on Light Reading's NFV channel.


VNFs can run on X86 white boxes, or in the cloud in virtual machines (supporting KVM and ESXi) or in containers. Network operators looking to provide CPE can buy white boxes directly from ODMs, or buy an integrated solution from Versa. But the hardware is not how Versa differentiates. "Our job is not to make money on hardware. We are a software play," Weiner says.

Versa makes its software available by subscription -- buy what you use. The company provides a dozen VNFs, including routing, VPN, carrier grade NAT, malware and DOS protection, address management and quality of service. But the platform runs VNFs from Versa and other vendors.

The software is optimized for five levels of multi-tenancy hierarchy, to fit business models where a big service provider might sell services to multiple distributors, each of which sells to multiple retailers, each of which sells to commercial customers, which might have their own internal tenants.

— Mitch Wagner, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profileFollow me on Facebook, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading. Got a tip about SDN or NFV? Send it to wagner@lightreading.com.

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