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Versa Networks' new cloud IP platform capabilities target the branch

Move over SD-WAN. Versa Networks extends software-defined capabilities to the branch with its cloud IP platform.

Versa Networks is rolling out a set of services tailored to branch offices as the vendor diversifies its software-defined WAN portfolio.

The expansion to its Cloud IP Platform includes integrated Wi-Fi and Ethernet switching software, embedded LTE support and enhanced security, said Mark Weiner, Versa's chief marketing officer. Branch offices will also have access to third-party virtual network functions. All the services will be delivered through Versa's SD-Branch, which is available now.

"SD-WAN is great; it adds value," Weiner said. "But you need to look further." Instead of focusing on SD-WAN as the sole problem solver, Weiner said Versa saw an opportunity to focus on the branch.

"Virtualizing the branch is not the same thing as software-defining the branch," he said. "We've got a dedicated platform, a range of services all built together on the platform that all integrate together, service chain, managed by one screen, one number for design, help and support. And if you still have a number of services that you want to dedicate an additional vendor for, they can be hosted."

The Cloud IP Platform uses Versa Director for management -- the same console that Versa's SD-WAN and SD-Security services currently use. Versa ships a preconfigured device with the software to the customer location, where the platform services are then managed and provisioned by Versa's cloud-based controller. Versa also offers managed service provider options.

"I would say, looking at the broader SD-WAN market -- given that [Versa] has security and now we're software-defining even more of the branch -- it will be interesting, as apples-to-apples comparison gets done, what customers start putting in their request for proposals," Weiner said.

Continued changes in the software-defined industry

Versa Networks isn't the first SD-WAN vendor to target the branch office with software-defined services. Riverbed also focused on branch offices with SteelConnect, introduced last year.

Mike Fratto, analyst at GlobalData in Sterling, Va., said it's not clear if other SD-WAN vendors will take the same steps Versa did with SD-Branch.

"I think from a technology standpoint, Riverbed and Citrix could [follow these footsteps], if they wanted to," Fratto said in an email to SearchSDN. "I think they have the foundation laid in order to launch a similar product. I think the other SD-WAN vendors would have a harder time doing so because of the engineering and development costs. This really is a product offering that is fundamentally different from SD-WAN."

Instead, Fratto sees Versa's Cloud IP Platform competing more with enterprise network functions virtualization (NFV) products from Cisco, Juniper and Hewlett Packard Enterprise, since it offers what he called a more generalized virtual environment. A lack of set NFV standards has notably affected the rate of NFV deployment, so a generalized platform could potentially prod NFV, automation and even campus SDN growth, he said.

Although Cloud IP Platform is available for both service providers and larger enterprises, Fratto said Versa's move seems driven more to fill the product gaps for what managed service providers, value added resellers (VARs) and individual software vendors need to enter the managed customer premises equipment industry.

"I think for the enterprise, [SD-Branch] won't be terribly attractive, at first, because there is a lot of heavy lifting that has to happen to prepare applications for a virtual environment -- integrating the software for provisioning, setting up the service chaining and so on," Fratto said. "I think it will be more attractive to VARs and integrators that want to enter the managed services space and want a head start on the foundational elements and then add capabilities on top."

The SD-WAN market continues to percolate, with IDC predicting the segment to reach $6 billion in revenues by 2020.

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