Mode Cast

Versa + Mode:
Solving Networking's Big Problems

"We work with Mode because some of our service-provider customers are working with Mode, and they want to leverage that global footprint and connectivity to the cloud."

— Kelly Ahuja, President & CEO at Versa Networks

Featuring:

Kelly Ahuja,
President & CEO at Versa Networks

Description:

In this Mode Cast from the Core, JoAnne McDougald speaks with Kelly Ahuja about Versa's vision for network infrastructure, the key big problems facing network infrastructure, and how Versa and Mode together are working to solve them. Kelly is CEO of Versa Networks and a Cisco alumnus.

Listen on SoundCloud [Or read the transcript below]

Transcript:

JoAnne McDougald:
"Hi everyone, and welcome to another episode of 'Technology Radio.' This is Jo McDougald and we're coming to you live from the ONUG Conference. It's October 22nd, 2018, and we're in New York City. And I have the pleasure of sitting next to Kelly Ahuja, who is the CEO of Versa Networks."

Kelly Ahuja:
"Hi, how are you?"

Jo:
"Great. How are you doing?"

Kelly:
"Great, thank you. Thank you for having me."

Jo:
"Thanks for joining us. So tell me a little bit about yourself – kind of how you ended up in the CEO role at Versa. Then tell me all about Versa."

Kelly:
"Oh, great. So, I've been at Versa for just over about two years now. I joined them as CEO after a long career at Cisco Systems where, before leaving, I was actually running their service provider portfolio. And before that I ran their mobility business, the routing business, and other parts of different responsibilities."

Jo:
"The number of Cisco alumni that are out in the world doing amazing things is off the charts. So you're in the party now."

Kelly:
"Well, thank you. Yeah, it was a great experience, great company, and it was a great learning experience for all of us. So we're happy to be alumni and contributing to the industry now."

Jo:
"Yeah. So here you are. You are one of the vendors here at the ONUG Conference today, along with some other big players and little players. Cisco is amongst the vendors here, but we've also got the likes of Mode, Arcus, Open Systems, and of course Versa Networks. So tell me what Versa Networks does."

Kelly:
"Sure, sure. So we're actually a company that's born in the networking industry. Our goal and vision is to really transform the business of networking. We are the next generation software-based networking and security company. Our view is that a lot of networks that have been built in the past need to be redefined and reconstructed. They've all been done with a proprietary, CLI-based, hardware-based model, and our vision is that we want to turn them to a software-defined, from manual to automated, dynamic, Rest API driven, self-healing kind of infrastructure. We're at the intersection of networking, security, and contextual context, meaning a user device application and maybe even network context – and then being able to set policy across each one of those variables or multiples of those variables all at the same time with a single pane of glass."

Jo:
"So you've got a composable, self-healing network that – "

Kelly:
"Well, actually what we have is a software platform. It's a cloud-native, multi tenant software platform that enterprises can use to be able to make it their cloud edge. So for example, any enterprise that's going through a digital transformation is moving to a multi-cloud and SAS adoption. When they do that, their WAN network needs to change. Why? Because the on-ramp to get to those multiple clouds is going to be predominantly the Internet, as opposed to the MPLS circuits, which are typically used for site-to-site communications.

When you use the Internet now, from every site now you need to rearchitect your WAN, and you need to rearchitect your security, because all of a sudden you've opened your security perimeter to every location in the world and need to connect those two. So now what happens is the cloud edge needs to determine what's the application, where's it supposed to go – and by the way, what's the policy for sending this voice traffic? Do I need to send it to a UCAS network? Or do I need to send it from site A to site B? Is this an application that's Azure-based, AWS-based, or Google-based? And just kind of steer it that way... Or if it's Spotify – we listen to Spotify on my phone at the office – it just sends it off to the Internet."

Jo:
"We'll be posting this on Spotify."

Kelly:
"Oh, thank you." [Laughter]

Jo:
"Just saying. You can hear yourself on your next podcast."

Kelly:
"Perfect."

Jo:
"Yeah, so one of the tenets of the ONUG Conference is an opportunity for obviously industry-heavy hitters – they've got guys from Cisco, Bloomberg, and other actual users of all of this technology for their clients – to have an opportunity to come together, listen to each other, learn, and understand what the clear future should be.

This morning Nick Lippis stood on the stage and said, 'The three things that we're working on this year are security, security, and then again maybe some security.' [Laughter] So you guys are in a prime spot for that. So tell me what you think so far – what your takeaways are from the conference."

Kelly:
"Yeah, so ONUG has been a great forum for us. We've been coming to ONUG for as long as I think it's been around, and the key learning for us is listening to the community, because these are enterprises that are sharing with their peer group what some of their challenges are – what some of the things are that they need solutions for and then collectively driving the industry towards that.

Now what we work on, which is software-defined wide area network, originated from some work that the ONUG community did many years ago in 2013 and actually transformed into where we are as a company, because we saw that opportunity, we had a technology, and we found a great fit – a product/market fit that's been compelling."

Jo:
"They'll be happy to hear that their thought leadership – "

Kelly:
"And I've got to thank Nick for his SD-WAN strategy that he talked about this time, where security is front and center. And we've been saying that for the last I don't know how many years, and finally the use community is recognizing the importance of security tied to the network in this digital transformation."

Jo:
"That's terrific. You've been with Versa for two years, but it's been around for a while. Do you want to tell me a little bit of some customer successes that you want to share?"

Kelly:
"Oh yeah, sure. So the company was founded in late 2012, and I joined them two years ago, as I said. And the company was busy building a lot of technology. I was amazed when I joined at the team, the technology they'd built, and the transaction that they had, but when I joined we only had a handful of customers. We had a couple of enterprise customers who have since maybe come out. So, Capital One was one of our key, premiere accounts – Capital One Bank. Then also at that time we had a couple of service providers. We had CentralLink as an early service provider, Colt in the UK, and also Tata.

Since then we've actually grown to have 600 enterprise users and customers and about 78 managed service providers globally. Now, managed service providers use our technology to offer software-defined WAN and software-defined security as a service. Enterprises use our platform on premise to be able to run, manage, and deploy their own infrastructure and network. And we work with both."

Jo:
"That's great. That's a great testimonial to be able to say we've got 600 happy-plus customers."

Kelly:
"Right."

Jo:
"MSPs... "

Kelly:
"And just on that, today we talked about First Data Corp with Verizon. We're working with Verizon on First Data Corp, and they have multiple thousands of locations they'll be rolling this out to. And tomorrow I'll be on stage with Adobe, who are talking about how far they've come with their deployment using a Versa solution globally."

Jo:
"Yeah, these are tiny companies. I've never heard of them. [Laughter] I'll have to look it up."

Kelly:
"Oh, sure. Great."

Jo:
"Capital One – shout out to their marketing department, as someone who works in marketing. I love their ads. They actually made it fun to – "

Kelly:
"Yeah. You know, last year they were talking about what's in your wallet, and I had them on stage last year. I asked them, so, what's in your branch? And it's actually Versa that's in their branch."

Jo:
"Oh, that's awesome. Good job. You should be in marketing."

Kelly:
"No, no, no."

Jo:
"You are a marketer, full-time. You know, obviously ONUG is just dedicated to the thought-leadership piece – figuring out what's headed out into the future. I had an opportunity earlier today to speak with Eric Hanselman, as in Hansel and Gretel, who's a 451 Researcher. And his takeaway was that invisible infrastructure will sort of be where we head in the future. So making sure that this is all seamless – that I don't have to know how to use a command-line interface anymore as an administrator – these days will be gone – and really contextualizing... Like you said, what you guys are able to offer seems like a critical path on that journey for so many companies."

Kelly:
"Absolutely, because no longer do engineers want to go in and talk – you know, configure route policies or ACLs. They basically want to say block Kelly if he's using, I don't know, some application or trying to get to a website."

Jo:
"Stop using... I can't even say it in company."

Kelly:
"Right, exactly. But you know what? It's interesting, because more and more what we're hearing is the customers even want to change the user interface away from CLI. We've come a long ways to GUIs, but now they're talking about natural-language processing. They want to be able to speak to it. It's almost like, Alexa, give me this. In fact, one of our partners, Comcast, recently displayed in their analyst conference actually a customer speaking to an Alexa and asking it questions about the network and sites – which sites were up and down. So we're almost there even with that type of an interface."

Jo:
"Yeah, that's amazing. So speaking of networking, we're here at a networking event. Someone has just brought drinks. Even better. How nice was that? So you've had a chance to work with some of the companies in the room – maybe some smaller companies. You want to talk to me a little bit about you and Mode?"

Kelly:
"Yeah, sure. You know, Mode has been – approached us for working together. Mode has been building what they call the SD-Core, which is a software-defined core – which is a global network, a global footprint that they're building. Essentially what that is is a fast path or an express path to some of the cloud services.

We work with Mode because some of our service-provider customers are working with Mode, and they want to leverage that global footprint and connectivity to the cloud. And we're basically the on-ramp from the enterprise premise to the Mode infrastructure. So from an SD-WAN standpoint, what we can do is have a policy in our configuration of the enterprise that says hey, if you're going from site A in Singapore to site B in Brussels, and you're talking on the phone or it's a voice call, maybe you want to go on the MPLS path. But if you're going to the cloud, then instead of just going pure Internet broadband access – to use that broadband access with a secure tunnel to a Mode gateway. That Mode gateway would then get you to the right cloud."

Jo:
"And then maintain no jitter – just have a pure, crystal clear – "

Kelly:
"Exactly, the right performance, the right SLAs on latency, etcetera – all those things. So that's how we're working with Mode. A great company. We've had multiple customers that have actually engaged with us and Mode concurrently, so we're working together with them. We've done interoperability with them, and I believe they work very closely with Ericsson, as well."

Jo:
"That's great. So, it's nice that you've got friends in the room and that you've obviously taken insights from ONUG in general. What's next for you and for Versa? Will you be giving back to the community? What is next?"

Kelly:
"Of course. So you know, we come to ONUG to do two things. One is of course understand what the enterprises are talking about and the user groups are talking about in terms of future. Second is to share with them the progress we've made since the last time we met them on what we heard from them the last time. So we're continuing to drive innovation, and we're continuing to push new bounds of addressing the customers' needs. And every time we come, we have something new to share. Even this time around we have something new to share about what we've done in the last little while, and we're continuing to drive innovation down that path."

Jo:
"I think that's the takeaway for today: just to continue to share with the community, continue to innovate, continue to network, and continue to spend time with me. Thank you so much."

Kelly:
[Laughs] "Well, thank you for the opportunity. Really wonderful having you here."

Jo:
"Thank you for joining us."

Kelly:
"Thank you. All right, appreciate it."

Jo:
"Bye."

^