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SDN startup Versa targets WANs, branch networks

SDN startup Versa has built a software platform that lets service providers deploy and manage WANs and branch networks.

A startup founded by two former engineers of Juniper Networks Inc. has introduced a software-defined networking (SDN) platform that lets large companies run and manage services for branch and wide-area networks.

Versa Networks, which raised $43 million in funding while in stealth mode over the last three years, launched its FlexVNF software this week. The platform for chaining and running virtual network functions (VNFs) is aimed at service providers and big enterprises.

Versa is the latest startup to launch what it believes is a better idea for a software-defined WAN (SD-WAN). SD-WANs promise to bring much-needed flexibility and lower cost to traditional WAN technology.

Versa, like other SD-WAN vendors, abstracts network intelligence into a virtual overlay. In general, SD-WAN products enable secure pooling of private and public connections, and permits automation, centralized network control and instantaneous traffic management over multiple links.

Versa SD-WAN adds management and security

Versa differs from many competitors by letting customers do more with its technology. Most SD-WAN products focus on directing traffic to an MPLS connection or a cheaper broadband link, depending on the importance of the packets. Versa goes further by also letting customers manage other network services and security.

"Not only do they solve the transport problem, but they provide carriers with a way to layer services on top," said Cliff Grossner, an analyst at research firm IHS Inc., based in Englewood, Colo.

Communication service providers make up the largest market for Versa's technology. The company's software can run on a bare-metal x86 commodity server or a virtual environment. Having that flexibility is important because it let's service providers run some VNFs in their data centers and others in the customers'. Depending on the network architecture, some customers might prefer to have certain services running in-house either virtually or on an appliance.

"Versa allows a service chain that can straddle multiple branches and multiple hubs," said Versa co-founder Apurva Mehta.

Mehta and his brother Kumar Mehta founded Versa in 2012. Before forming the startup, they helped build one of Juniper's most successful products -- the MX edge router. One company testing Versa's platform is Verizon, which is also an investor.

Versa technology

Versa's software stack, collectively called the FlexVNF, starts with the Linux-based Versa OS, which provides the platform for service chaining and running network and security services. The latter includes firewalls and deep packet inspection.

Services run as VNFs on virtual machines (VMs), containers, bare metal x86 servers or white box appliances. One or multiple VNFs can run on each of the platforms.

Versa's launch came about a week after Juniper introduced a product that also gives service providers more flexibility in running branch networks for customers. Juniper's Cloud CPE software platform runs VNFs on a commodity x86 server in a carrier's data center, or in an on-premises appliance at the customer's facility.

The SD-WAN market is a mixture of startups and traditional networking companies, such as Cisco and Juniper. Other vendors include Glue Networks, Silver Peak Inc., CloudGenix Inc., Mushroom Networks Inc., Talari Networks and VeloCloud.

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