Versa Looks to Broaden Base in Sales Expansion


By: R. Scott Raynovich

BARCELONA -- Mobile World Congress 2018 -- The many technology vendors in the software-defined networking (SD-WAN) market are a proud and chatty lot -- they like trash talking about who's got the most customers. And on that count, Versa Networks -- which now has more than 47 service provider customers, with an estimated 60 total, and is often the subject of some of its competitors' gossip -- may have been underestimated in the marketplace. 

Versa executives here at MWC detailed a new push to broaden the company's customer base as it embarks on the next phase of sales growth. Versa's disclosed customers are already quite impressive. The company's core focus has been on the service providers, which represent about 75% of its base and include big names like Colt, CenturyLink, and Verizon. But it's also selling into larger enterprises, including banks such as Capital One, and middle-market retail, such as the QuickServe fast food chain. 

All this contributes to the heated competition for the fast-growing SD-WAN technology market, which provides provide secure, cloud-based access to WAN services through software, without the hassle of complicated router hardware configurations. Futuriom's own SD-WAN Growth Report last year detailed that the SD-WAN market is likely to grow double-digit percentages through the next 2-3 years to hit $2 billion by 2020. 

While the SD-WAN vendors like to sling mud at each other, the truth is they all have different approaches and may serve different markets. There may be sufficient niches for many companies to flourish. Some of the contenders include Cradlepoint, FatPipe, Silver Peak, VeloCloud, and Viptela all vying for leadership positions in a market that is not only large, but also filled with nuances. 

In some cases, the products can be complementary. For example, Cradlepoint VP of IoT Strategy and Business Development Ken Hosac pointed out that Cradlepoint, which focuses on an SD-WAN solution based on wireless connectivity, often partners with vendors such as Versa, which provides the platform but not necessarily wireless access points. "We're both doing well, sometimes selling together," he says. 

Versa Networks has always been a little unique, because from the beginning it focused on building a platform for service providers to roll out SD-WAN as well as other virtual services, rather than specifically focusing on selling managed service or SD-WAN for enterprises, as some vendors have done.

Versa CEO Kelly Ahuja and Founder Kumar Mehta told Futuriom that the company intends to broaden the customer base in 2018, increasing the range of customers to include more enterprises, of both the medium and large variety. An independent, unnamed source verified today that Versa's sales are growing fast and likely to put it in the first tier of SD-WAN vendors in 2018, the definition of which is vendors likely to hit triple-digit millions in revenue in 2018. 

Ahuja, a former Cisco Systems service provider executive, says that any noise about Versa not being in the mix is simply not true. Ahuja says the company has always had a different approach, because it sells a cloud platform that isn't attached to specific customer premises equipment (CPE) or managed services, allowing its customers to roll out their own services, in the carrier space, or build their own SD-WANs, as is common in the financial space. Ahuja says that one of the key differentiators for Versa is having extensive security capabilities.

"We're winning against Viptela and VeloCloud. Every customer is attaching security."

The company points out that its platform has full security features built into it, including next-generation firewall and analytics functions, rather than just securing WAN lines with IPSec encryption. Versa is also beating the "cloud native" drum, pointing out that its software was built ground up for the cloud without the need for specific customer premises equipment (CPE), which is the case with some vendors such as Cisco.

In addition to expanding sales in the enterprise area, Versa said it's also focused on expanding services for cable companies, which are a natural fit as they expand their suite of WAN enterprise services. 

"MSOs [multiple systems operators] are getting quite aggressive on this," says Versa founder Mehta. They have no legacy and they can sell attached services."

The takeaway is that 2018 is going to be a fun year for SD-WAN -- as market growth increases the stakes and contributes to the elevated trash talking. As the noise and competition rise, the key for the successful technology vendors is going to come down to differentiating the technology and identifying the right vertical markets, all of which have many different types of customers with specific requirements.