Led by engineering talent formerly of Juniper Networks, the company is working to bridge enterprise LANs with service provider cloud networks.

Mitch Wagner, Executive Editor, Light Reading

February 19, 2014

6 Min Read
UNVEILED! California's Hottest SDN Startup, Versa Networks

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.

Figure 1: 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.

Versa Networks is building an SDN hypervisor, which will compete with offerings from VMWare's Nicera business unit, Cisco, and others. Versa's goal is to build a single controller that can bridge datacenter networks with MPLS-based WANs.

Bridging the cloud and datacenter is important for a couple of reasons, namely saving on headcount and reducing redundancy by making two networks appear as one.

Also, it helps service providers improve reliability for their cloud services. Customers can use private networks to connect to cloud services, rather than brave the perils of the public Internet. "What all the telcos want to do is take advantage of the fact that they own networks [built using] strong MPLS network technologies. They want to give each of their enterprise customers the ability to make the cloud look like it's in their own local network," the Mehtas' former colleague said. "Take something like SAP. Customers would only need to run one instance in the datacenter on the East Coast, and anywhere in the country, users can get on that copy of SAP, even though it's on the AT&T datacenter. They can get it almost as if it's on the same desk as them, or it's in the basement."

Versa's jobs section on the company website points to an offering that bridges the cloud and LAN. A notice for user experience architects explains:

  • With the introduction of new technologies such as Dynamic Datacenters and Cloud infrastructure, automation allows end users to directly or indirectly interact with various infrastructure products. Our User Interface Architect will invent the way Network and DevOps engineers interact with Orchestration Systems and underlying infrastructure.

Several product manager positions call for familiarity with cloud services such as Amazon Web Services and Azure.

And the requirements for a lead software test engineer include experience in L4 to L7 service architectures such as ADC/Load balancing, firewalls, IPSec, NAT, and VPN.

Also, the company has job openings for multiple software engineers, requiring skills in Layer 3 through Layer 7, familiarity with OpenFlow and SDN, as well as VXLAN and NVGRE, routing and MPLS, load balancing, firewall, IPsec VPNs, and more. The positions also suggest familiarity with the Linux kernel and hypervisor development.

The openings are advertised in San Jose, Calif., as well as Bangalore.

LinkedIn lists Versa with 11-50 employees, with the preponderance in Bangalore.

What does Versa have to say for itself? It declined to comment. "Versa Networks is in stealth mode at the moment and therefore we would prefer not to do interviews at this time," Kumar Mehta said in response to an email query, no doubt stroking a hairless cat on his lap as he dictated his reply to a cringing minion.

Versa could face a harsh environment if it comes out of stealth mode this year. The industry is likely on the verge of an SDN shakeout, as too many startups are pursuing a technology that's yet to be tested in the carrier battlefield. "When these companies have burned through their venture funding, we don't know which ones will still be standing," said 451 Group analyst Christan Renaud.

Caroline Chappell, senior analyst at Heavy Reading, agreed. "In the service provider market it will be difficult for small startups unless they have great pedigrees, which Versa does," she said.

Update 2/20: Mehta responded to this article after we published it: "We appreciate the coverage. Thank you. We look forward to our public announcement and being able to talk freely with you."

— 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 [email protected].

About the Author(s)

Mitch Wagner

Executive Editor, Light Reading

San Diego-based Mitch Wagner is many things. As well as being "our guy" on the West Coast (of the US, not Scotland, or anywhere else with indifferent meteorological conditions), he's a husband (to his wife), dissatisfied Democrat, American (so he could be President some day), nonobservant Jew, and science fiction fan. Not necessarily in that order.

He's also one half of a special duo, along with Minnie, who is the co-habitor of the West Coast Bureau and Light Reading's primary chewer of sticks, though she is not the only one on the team who regularly munches on bark.

Wagner, whose previous positions include Editor-in-Chief at Internet Evolution and Executive Editor at InformationWeek, will be responsible for tracking and reporting on developments in Silicon Valley and other US West Coast hotspots of communications technology innovation.

Beats: Software-defined networking (SDN), network functions virtualization (NFV), IP networking, and colored foods (such as 'green rice').

Subscribe and receive the latest news from the industry.
Join 62,000+ members. Yes it's completely free.

You May Also Like