Versa FlexVNF Review

Straightforward with excellent next-generation firewall features and geo-blocking capabilities.

What is our primary use case?

We primarily use the solution for multi-link aggregated circuits that are co-managed with our provider.

What is most valuable?

The most valuable aspects of the solution are the next-generation firewall features and geo-blocking capabilities. 

The high availability failover has been also been very important to our organization. Failover is when you have dual boxes and if one of them goes down, the other one picks up the traffic.

The entire solution is very straightforward.

What needs improvement?

The configuration is very much a command line. Some people don't like working with command lines. I don't know if this particular model can support it, however, if it had more of a GUI, I'd like to see that. It would be nice to see that they had a webpage to configure the solution on versus doing it as a prompt.

It would help if the solution offered artificial intelligence that can actually make real-time decisions on traffic flow.

The smaller units lack a lot of functionality.

For how long have I used the solution?

I've been using the solution for two and a half to three years now.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

We definitely went over a few variations of the firmware. The initial firmware configurations had some issues, however, I think they've got it down now. I would say it's very reliable at this point.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

The solution is extremely scalable. We find that having a control center and being able to monitor in one location is very scalable. If organizations need to expand the offering, they can do so rather easily.

Everyone in the organization really uses the solution due to the fact that it's a network edge. Anyone who wants to get out of the network has to use the solution. If you're looking at it from that point of view, if you're looking at it from how many people within the organization actually deal with the daily grind of monitoring and keeping up, we have a small team that takes care of it. The team contains anywhere from five to ten people at any given time.

How are customer service and technical support?

Technical support has been responsive. This has been a co-managed implementation so when there are any high-end technical caveats, the provider has to deal with the back and forth with Versa. It hasn't been a first-person type interface with them. That said, when I've seen questions being asked, I've seen their responses, and they've been quick to help and reply.

How was the initial setup?

I helped with the initial setup.

It was not straightforward. It was definitely complex. Especially since it was a new product for us. We had a big learning curve from the get-go. 

Other than that, though, once you understood the setup, although I wouldn't say it was straightforward, it wasn't that difficult.

Implementation was over a six month period. We had to swap out upwards of over 35 different sites. We had to schedule downtime and switch out our infrastructure to support it and then bring it back up. Each side had to be done one at a time, without losing business continuity. It was a bit tedious. 

There was a lot of strategy and preparation that went into the project before we even began the setup. You can only take a site down for a certain amount of time without interrupting people's flow. However, our goal was to keep business as usual at up to 90% so that our clients didn't really notice the changeover.

What about the implementation team?

The deployment was co-managed with our providers. The provider brought in support and they had the expertise on the product itself. With their assistance, we strategized and came up with configurations. Then we worked out a schedule and came up with an implementation plan. We started the implementation and checked off each site one at a time as we went through.

What was our ROI?

Our original network diagram had single circuit MPLS network. And if that circuit went down, the site was down. So this network uses IQ circuit and a broadband circuit for the most part to aggregate and give you greater speeds.

We went from a single circuit MPLS to dual circuits. Therefore, between the cost of one circuit and then two circuits, the one circuit was an expensive circuit. The two are less expensive, but they kind of matched. So the pricing with the service, the new service add on that we did with the provider versus what we had, where it was a self-managed, kind-of washed out. I can't say that we really saved money, however, I don't know the full balance sheet all the way from top to bottom.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

I'm not sure what the pricing is on the solution. We're looking at a variety of options, and we're looking to choose a technology and then push forward with a proof of concept as well as a pricing model. We're not there yet.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We are looking at other options. The implementation that we're looking to go forward with is going to be more app-centric based networking. We're looking to see if we can try and bring in something that is not too technical.

There are a few different SD-WAN providers that monitor what's called S-flow data and will take your traffic and balance it depending on what's happening in real-time versus just a straight "here's your internet circuits and use whatever you can" type of setup. As an analogy, if you are in a car, going from A to B, you can use an app like Waze that can warn you about traffic and can reroute you so that you get from A to B in the shortest time. That's what we're looking for. CloudGenix or Palo Alto Networks have SD-WAN solutions that not only aggregate your circuits but can actually push certain traffic certain ways on those circuits, depending on if you're being bottlenecked or if there's an over-bandwidth usage issue. Basically, what we're looking for is something that manages the flow of traffic better.

What other advice do I have?

We're just a customer. We aren't a consultant or reseller.We have a couple of different models. We have the smaller models and the medium-sized models, however, I'm unsure of the exact model numbers.

New users should be aware of sizing. Making sure that the size is correct is important. There are small, medium, and large units, however, the smaller units only support certain functionality. In saying that, they seem to have some issues with some of the functionality on the small units not working. It's best to get a medium-sized unit to get some of the next-generation firewall stuff.

I'd rate the solution eight out of ten.

**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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