CTO Sessions: Apurva Mehta, Versa Networks | #macos | #macsecurity

Name: Apurva Mehta

Company: Versa Networks

Job title: Founder and CTO

Date started current role: December 2012

Location: California

Apurva Mehta has over two decades of experience leading complex development products creating billion-dollar revenue streams. Prior to Versa, he was CTO and Chief Architect for Juniper Networks Mobility Business Unit where he led and delivered the Evolved Packet Core (EPC) product line. Mehta was also the Chief Architect for the MX series, one of the most successful products in Juniper’s history and establishing the company as the market leader in Metro and Carrier Ethernet solutions. For his contributions, Mehta was awarded Juniper Network’s prestigious Founder’s Award for technical leadership.

What was your first job? After I graduated from university, I applied to lots of places and got a few rejections, but I eventually accepted an offer from a company which best matched my interests. That company was making X-Windows terminals. I developed all networking software for the X-Windows terminal including ethernet driver, entire TCP/IP stack, and Local Area Transport protocol.

Did you always want to work in IT? Yes, I can honestly say that I have always wanted to work in IT. I have always been fascinated by electronics, communications, and computers. I wanted to find out how all of it worked, so I absolutely knew this was a career I wanted to pursue. I am working and doing things that I’ve genuinely always wanted to do which I know is rare!

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? I graduated with a Computer Science and Engineering degree from one of the Indian Institutes of Technology. At the time I graduated there were only about four or five of them in India, but now there are around 23 institutes which shows just how much the industry has grown since I graduated.

I was then offered eight scholarships to various schools in America and the competition was very tough, but I worked incredibly hard, and I chose the right college for me which was the University of Pittsburgh. I graduated with a Master’s in Computer Science and my thesis was on Sendmail, which is a internetwork email routing facility. However, I was involved in various college projects relating to RISC processors and would also read up on networking in my own time. So, I was constantly reading around the subject and learning about everything related to computing that wasn’t necessarily specific to my course.

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. My education was in Computer Science and Computer Engineering. However, Computer Science has more avenues to express creativity compared to Computer Engineering because Computer Engineering is more capital intensive. I therefore gravitated more towards computer science and system design, learning about the marriage of hardware and software. I knew what I had to do to get to where I wanted to be.

One of the biggest jobs I have had was as the chief architect and CTO of Juniper Networks. I was responsible for creating and implementing the Juniper MX router which has been the most successful product in Juniper’s history. It is responsible for a significant portion of Juniper’s revenue.

What type of CTO are you? I truly believe that great ideas can come from anybody. As a CTO, it is really important to listen to what everyone has to say because we are constantly learning from those around us. It has to be egalitarian and if the idea makes sense and has value, then we will incorporate it into our products.

My strength as a CTO also lies in marrying and integrating different technologies. From the inception of Versa, we had a very versatile product which brought together both security and networking. And now we have Secure Access Service Edge, or SASE (pronounced sassy) which marries technologies such as Software Defined Wide-Area-Networks (SD-WAN) and security. As a CTO, I’ve been able to look at what technology the market needs and have now helped create something that is versatile, easy to use, reliable and provides a great application experience.

Which emerging technology are you most excited about the prospect of? I am really excited about the evolution of SASE. Things like security and networking being combined is genuinely exciting to me. This is a highly connected world and so many businesses are dependent on network and security – if we have connection or security problems, all hell breaks loose!

SASE is in high demand, particularly during the pandemic. With more and more people working from home, networking and security are in high demand. SASE incorporates contextual security i.e., looking at who the user is, what applications various users are accessing as well as content of those applications, what they are authorised to do and whether their device is safe. SASE secures applications in the cloud as well as on-premises. Because so many of us are accessing cloud applications like Gmail, LinkedIn and Sales Force, there is a lot of traffic going directly from the laptop to the cloud and this data needs to be scrubbed for security. SASE has been a huge help to many businesses over the course of various national lockdowns. So, we all at Versa are excited to provide a technology which allows many businesses to continue their normal operations despite the pandemic.

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