Versa Networks Enhances SD-WAN Offering, Helps MSPs Add Services To Enterprise Branch Offices

Versa Networks Wednesday added more capabilities to its SD-WAN platform, giving MSPs a way to provide a suite of advanced enterprise network services on virtualized Customer Premises Equipment that can be managed and measured in a single platform.

"We take all of the network functions that would normally sit at a branch [in separate appliances], and we've combined them into a single piece of software – a multifunction VNF [virtualized network function]," said Versa CEO Kelly Ahuja (pictured). "We've consolidated all of that and allow you to run it on various types of network elements."

Versa's mission, Ahuja told CRN, is to go beyond the connectivity provided by SD-WAN and solve the bigger problem of connecting branch locations, data centers, and corporate offices. There are typically several virtualized and physical appliances at each branch, with separate management programs, and that adds to the complexity of delivering services and managing and securing these connections. "For every vendor and every appliance, there's a 1-800 number to call and get information," Ahuja said. "And the enterprise has to stitch it all together themselves."

[Related: Telecom Service Provider Nitel Unveils SD-WAN, SD-Security Services For Partners As Provider 'Doubles Down' On Indirect Sales Efforts]

This is where managed service providers, using Versa's FlexVNF offering, can make a difference, Ahuja said. They can deploy Versa's offering on bare metal servers, white box appliances, hypervisor VMs (VMware ESXi & KVM) and Linux containers and manage the entire suite of security and connectivity services remotely for clients.

Versa's new capabilities added to the FlexVNF platform include the ability to host third-party VNFs. Now companies using VNFs from other vendors that they want to keep, like firewalls, for instance, can maintain those existing functions at the branch, integrate it with FlexVNF and still manage it all from a single platform.

The Versa platform also added embedded LTE support, Wi-Fi and Ethernet switching software, and malware protection that includes a cloud look-up feature to keep known and zero-day threats contained. Each new feature is designed to give enterprises most of the functions they'd want to see in a separate router, switch, security device or access point.

The advent of SD-WAN allows an MSP to deliver a fully managed service using public broadband connection. But that public connection requires some additional security and management features to make a branch office behave as though it's truly part of a larger corporate network. That requires advanced routing, WAN connectivity, SD-WAN and network security capabilities.

In any company, Ahuja said, IT and business teams know that "you need to have context about the user, the device, the application and the network that you're connected to" so that "an employee looking at payroll or a visitor using the guest Wi-Fi" can be given the service level required for the application they're using.

One company, VergX, has partnered with Versa to make its platform even easier for MSPs to sell to enterprises. " We've taken the best virtual networking platform out there, from Versa, built it out and made it consumable via the cloud and now we're providing the ultimate flexibility for turning this stuff up," said VergX Board Member Brian Fink.

The VergX-Versa partnership, Fink said, allows his company to help MSPs take Versa's capabilities to market "within weeks" and provide enterprise customers with SD-WAN, next-generation firewall and unified threat management (UTM) services that they can turn up, as needed, from a white box appliance. That partnership was announced a month ago.

"What resonates extremely well with MSPs is the concept of the future-proof network," Fink said. "I can put a very inexpensive device at the branch and … after the initial investment, the software and services we can deploy on that appliance enables the MSP to future-proof that network."

Fink said what stands out about Versa's technology is their routing heritage. "Their advanced routing capability is superior to any of the other SD-WAN guys out there," Fink said. "We have yet to find an interoperability issue that we can't design to, and that's really important because a lot of customers don't want to rip and replace appliances."

It's still early days for VergX's network-as-a-service offering featuring Versa's technology, but he said there are several MSPs running proofs-of-concept and the company has "several production locations running" on its cloud platform. With Versa as the technology supplier and VergX enabling the platform to move to market via MSPs more quickly, Fink said they're providing a solid alternative to larger service providers in the SD-WAN space.

"The difference is we're much nimbler, and we know the MSPs," Fink said. "And we're not going to compete with our resellers."

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