June 30, 2021
Versa Networks will use part of its $84 million funding round to double its channel sales force.
The secure access service edge provider (SASE) wrapped a Series D funding round to bring its total funding to $196 million. President and CEO Kelly Ahuja said Versa will use the money to build its technology platform and building its go-to-market strategy. The latter includes direct sales, marketing and channel.
Versa’s Kelly Ajuha
Ahuja said Versa will grow from about 500 employees to 600 by the end of the next 12 months. Specifically, he said Versa will double its channel sales force in that time period.
Ahuja praised Versa Networks channel partners for how they have contributed to Versa’s market presence. The company serves more than 5,000 customers and 500,000 locations.
“The way we’re winning those customers is through our 2,000-plus partners,” Ahuja told Channel Futures.
According to Versa, the company doubled its channel partner registrations last year. In addition, the company has surpassed 150 service provider partners.
Versa Networks teams with a variety of channel partners: VARs, MSPs, systems integrators, service providers and agents. Ahuja said he sees many partners trying to fill gaps in their business.
For example, many VARs have been building managed services practices. MSPs have are building managed network and security practices. And many MSSPs are adding a network component. And according to Ahuja, these changes are stemming from customer demand.
“I think there’s more interest in every one of these partners to adjust to what their customers are asking for,” Ahuja said. “And many of them are enhancing their capabilities.”
Versa unveiled a new partner program in January. The ACE program allows partners to obtain certifications in delivering Versa’s SD-WAN, SASE lean IT SASE offerings.
Princeville Capital, RPS Ventures and other investors participated in the round. Princeville managing partner and co-founder Joaquin Rodriguez Torres pointed to the growing SASE market as a reason for the investment. SASE brings networking and security services into a single platform. The market will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 42% to reach $11 billion in 2024, according to Gartner.
Rodriguez Torres praised the “investible potential” of the market.
“SASE is quickly becoming the top priority of every enterprise and is a market that is on the cusp of explosive success, so we’re thrilled to be part of Versa’s journey as they continue to revolutionize the way businesses approach their networking and security challenges,” Rodriguez Torres said.
Versa first launched a SASE offering last summer, integrating its well-known SD-WAN with next-gen firewall, DDoS protection and other security capabilities. It has since added a lean IT version of the solution. However, Ahuja said Versa was providing SASE before called it SASE. At the time Versa dubbed it “software-defined security,” incorporating a next-generation firewall virtual network function (VNF) into its software platform.
“The good news for us is we’ve been in the space ever since the company was founded. We’ve been doing network and security since 2012. And while other companies have either been in networking or security, we’ve actually had a combined technology portfolio that we’ve been selling,” Ahuja told Channel Futures.
Despite SASE’s rising popularity, many customers don’t understand the technology. A recent Versa study found that only 31% of customers could correctly define SASE. Some defined it as a second generation of SD-WAN or a remote network tool, rather than a single, cloud-native platform that converges networking and security capabilities.
SASE involves a very different sort of layout than what partners have come to expect with SD-WAN. The hybrid nature of SASE means that partners need to consider more than just locations that they will connect for customers.
“Traditionally they’ve sold circuits or minutes,” Ahuja said. “Now they’re going to have to sell connectivity for hybrid workforce, where the user is anywhere and can connect to applications anywhere.”
Ahuja urged partners to educate themselves on the technology. He said that partners might score much like customers do when it comes to defining SASE. That’s because partners often “ramp up really fast once a customer asks them” about a technology, Ahuja said.
But Ahuja said partners need to take a step ahead in their education process.
“This is something they should learn and be educated about. But the market is happening now. This is not for tomorrow; this is not next year. It’s happening now. Don’t believe just the power point. Make sure you fully understand what the technology is and how it’s built,” Ahuja said. “Because as a trusted adviser, you need to make sure you’re putting forward the right solution for the problem.”
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