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Leading from the front

Versa Networks is investing in its platform and channel to accelerate take-up of its SASE solution in existing and new territories 

At the end of June, following a record year, Versa Networks announced that it had secured an additional $84 million to cement its leadership position in the Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) market, bringing the total amount of funding raised by the company to $196 million.

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Versa provides a fully integrated software-only SASE solution combining extensive security, advanced networking, industry leading SD-WAN, genuine multitenancy and sophisticated analytics via the cloud, on-premises or as a blended combination of both. 

Kelly Ahuja, CEO of Versa Networks, told Technology Reseller that the company is planning to use the investment to accelerate its already impressive subscriber growth and to cement its position as a leader in SASE, broadly defined as ‘the convergence of networking and security services like CASB, FWaaS and Zero Trust into a single cloud-native service model’. 

“SASE is currently the hottest category in networking and security,” he said, “and it turns out we are the leader in that category. We are already well established in secure SD-WAN and if you look at what SASE is defined as – a combination of SD-WAN and security provided both on- prem and in the cloud – we check many of the boxes that Gartner has laid out as requirements for SASE.

“We are the fastest growing company in this category and have been doubling our business year over year. Last year, even with the pandemic, we doubled our subscription business compared to the year before. So, we are on a good trajectory; we have lots of customers – 5,000 enterprise customers and 2,000 partners – and globally we are making a name for ourselves across every vertical, whether it is financial, insurance, oil and gas, retail or technology. We are involved in many large projects around the world and service provider partners are helping us, too, because we are involved with them in building out their managed services to take to market.” 

Ahuja said that the new funding would enable Versa to accelerate growth in two ways: by expanding and extending its platform, its global footprint of gateways, cloud infrastructure and services, as well as its offering for customers who prefer to have an on-prem solution; and, secondly, by investing in new go-to-market strategies and new sales and partner enablement initiatives to ensure that Versa is involved in as many market opportunities as possible in existing and new territories. 

In light of a recent survey, which found that 69% of organisations couldn’t correctly define SASE (see box), this includes dispelling confusion about the solution that still exists amongst end users and channel partners. 

“Many years ago, cloud came as a category and cloud meant anything and everything to everyone,” explained Ahuja. “In the same way, SASE is a category in which every vendor is saying I am a SASE vendor. Because a CASB vendor is coming in and saying I am a SASE vendor, and a network vendor is coming in and saying I am a SASE vendor and someone that has a firewall is coming in and saying I am a SASE vendor, there is a lot of confusion in the customer’s mind. Fundamentally, what’s important is to focus on the customer and the problem that they want to solve, which is really about connecting their users, whether they are on-prem or off-prem, to applications in any cloud.” 

SASE pedigree 

Versa Networks has already done a great deal to educate the market on SASE, from its channel certification programme to the publication of SASE for Dummies, and it plans to do more in this area, which is perhaps a reflection of the confidence it has in its own SASE pedigree. 

Indeed, Ahuja claims that unlike many of its competitors that might have started as a security company or a firewall company or a routing company, Versa has always focused on the integration of the network and security and, from the start, has been built for the cloud. 

“If you look at how we built our solution and our product, it is perfectly aligned with what the new SASE category is. It is multi-tenant by design; our solution has routing; it has all the SD-WAN that is required; all the other networking functions that will be needed, as well as firewall as a service, and CASB and Zero Trust. All of those are there and have been there for many years, and have been used by customers for many years, so it is not something new for us. We are already doing it,” he said. 

“Customers talk to us about others in the market that claim to be SASE vendors, but when they look deeper into them, they turn out to be a network company that is bolting on security or a security company that is bolting on a network solution that has a different operating system, different management system, different ways of defining policy across security and network. Having a unified operating system that handles all networking security functions and a single pane of glass – that ‘single pass and single glass’ as I heard one analyst say – is a clear differentiation for us.” 

Key differentiators 

Michael Wood, CMO at Versa Networks, highlights three key elements that differentiate Versa Networks from competitors and have catalysed its growth. 

  • 1 A single pane of glass providing visibility and control. “A lot of other solutions involve stitching together multiple clouds and multiple devices, and that is done through partnerships and acquisitions versus integrating everything within one single software stack and one management interface,” he said. 
  • 2 A single pass parallel processing architecture. “Traffic flows through our system, whether it is in the cloud or on premises, and all the SASE services operate on that traffic simultaneously. You unencrypt as it comes in, you operate on it and then you pass it along, so  you are not service-chaining through multiple services and that drives down the latency, increases the performance and also reduces the security threat surface exposure.”
  • 3 The ability to deploy its solution on premises or via the cloud or a blended combination of both. 

Another factor that has helped Versa Networks in the last 18 months, according to Ahuja, is the fact that it is predominantly a software business.

“While we have hardware that is built by our partners, we work across many different vendors with our solutions. One thing about the current environment is that vendors that have only one brand or their own brand of hardware have been challenged with supply – component supply and supply of product. But with our solution customers can choose a variety of solutions on the hardware front.” 

Hybrid working 

This flexibility, he suggests, is particularly important in an era of home working and hybrid working when users will want to connect directly to cloud or multi-cloud applications from their home or office without compromising the compliance and info-security status of the enterprise or visibility for its IT department. 

Versa Network’s Experiences and Attitudes Towards a Post-COVID Workforce report suggests that SASE has overtaken VPNs as enterprises’ preferred connectivity solution and, with Gartner forecasting the SASE market to grow at a CAGR of 42% to 2024, when at least 40% of enterprises will have SASE adoption strategies in place, Ahuja is understandably bullish about the future. 

“Right now, the phrase that comes to mind is ‘the future’s so bright I’ve gotta wear shades’. We are fortunate enough to be highly regarded by our partners, which could be service providers or reseller partners or system integrators, as well as by the analyst community, which is giving us additional support resulting in us getting involved in many opportunities. Even from a hiring standpoint, being a hot company in a hot category and being a leader in the category is attracting great talent to us,” he said. 

“We have been very successful in financial verticals, with marquee logos in those verticals, and in oil and gas. These are traditionally loyal, die-hard customers of incumbent vendors and we have been able to convince them to move to us. Now, we also have multi-national global retailers, hospitality chains, manufacturing, technology companies. So, we are now a mass market move, as opposed to a niche move. 

“Winning large financials gives you extra credibility because credit card companies or big banks go through very stringent processes to quality and certify vendors. Once companies see that happen they get the confidence to pursue further with us. That, and having partners in the UK like Colt and Virgin Media, really helps us address a broad market where we don’t have the coverage or the channel to directly touch them ourselves.” 

In conclusion, Ahuja said: “For us, it is all about coverage. The minute we add resources in a territory where we haven’t had them, we start to identify opportunities and the opportunities are closing fast.” 

www.versa-networks.com 

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2020