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Meta Networks NaaS offers SD-WAN, VPN, cloud connectivity

Startup Meta Networks has debuted its network as a service. The company's first offering delivers SD-WAN, security, VPNs and multi-cloud connectivity in an internet-based WAN.

Startup Meta Networks Ltd. has debuted its network as a service, which provides SD-WAN, virtual private networks and multi-cloud connectivity in what the company touts as a highly secure environment.

Meta, which launched its NaaS this week, has built a multi-tenant, Layer 3 overlay network that sits on top of points-of-presence (PoPs) the company spins up in infrastructure-as-a-service clouds based on customer demand. Meta customers use the PoPs to access its services.

One of those services is an SD-WAN that connects branch offices to software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers, such as Salesforce, Workday and ServiceNow, or applications hosted by IaaS providers, like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure or Google Cloud.

In delivering SD-WAN, Meta's PoP architecture has notable differences with competitors like Aryaka, said Shamus McGillicuddy, an analyst at Enterprise Management Associates, based in Boulder, Colo. Instead of cloud-based PoPs, Aryaka uses a global network of access points in colocation facilities interconnected via a private network backbone.

[Meta's] approach facilitates easy connectivity into the closest IaaS provider's data center but doesn't provide the global performance of a private network backbone.
Shamus McGillicuddyanalyst, Enterprise Management Associates

"[Meta's] approach facilitates easy connectivity into the closest IaaS provider's data center but doesn't provide the global performance of a private network backbone," McGillicuddy said.

Also, Meta focuses on providing an internet-based WAN, not a hybrid WAN that would also steer traffic across MPLS connections, McGillicuddy said. Therefore, Meta is best suited for connecting offices to a public cloud or interconnecting locations within a region.

"It's not designed to interconnect the sites of a more geographically distributed enterprise," McGillicuddy said.

Dynamic Yield swaps OpenVPN for Meta Networks

Dynamic Yield, a New York-based company that provides sales and marketing services to online retailers, uses Meta's VPN to connect employees working outside the corporate offices to business applications running on AWS. Roughly 30 employees, mostly in sales or customer service, use the VPN.

A year and a half ago, Dynamic Yield, which Meta provided as a customer reference, replaced OpenVPN, an open source product, with the Meta service. The company found managing OpenVPN was too tricky. "We just didn't have the time to deal with it," said Ramon Snir, a senior developer at Dynamic Yield.

Meta Networks' most significant advantage was its rules engine, Snir said. IT staff found it relatively simple to define and manage application access rules for groups of employees.

"We didn't have to care about the infrastructure. We didn't have to make sure things were secure," Snir said. "We didn't have to do much."

Dynamic Yield chose to access Meta's VPN through a software agent installed on each device. Meta also has a browser-based option that Dynamic Yield will consider as it eventually makes the VPN available to its more than 150 employees, Snir said.

Meta describes its NaaS as operating like a "big distributed identity-based router" surrounded by a software-defined perimeter (SDP), which authenticates and authorizes all devices before permitting them access to a customer's digital assets.

"No access is possible unless it is explicitly granted, and it's continuously verified at the packet level," the company said in a white paper.

Meta offers DNS filtering, as well as security services from partners Symantec and Cyren. The offerings include a secure web gateway, network access control and a cloud access security broker. Meta subscribers can chain the services.

For regulated companies, Meta captures traffic logs and makes them accessible through customers' security analytics tools.

Meta subscribers pay a per-user monthly fee based on the number of users and services.

Meta Networks enters a crowded market

Venture capital firms BRM Group and Vertex Ventures have provided $10 million in seed funding to Meta. CEO Etay Bogner, chief architect Shmulik Ladkani and vice president of research Alon Horowitz founded the company in 2016. Bogner is a former Intel strategist; Ladkani, an ex-technical lead at Cisco; and Horowitz, a former software engineer at IBM, according to their LinkedIn profiles.

Meta has entered a market bursting with a wide range of NaaS providers, including Apcela, Aryaka, Cato Networks, Masergy and TeloIP, said John Burke, an analyst at Nemertes Research, based in Mokena, Ill. "There are others, and more all the time.

"They'll also be going head to head with managed SD-WAN from essentially every carrier and ISP in tiers 1 and 2," he said.

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