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Extreme Networks CEO touts open SDN strategy, robust wireless as key assets in changing net market

John Gallant | Feb. 25, 2015
Extreme CEO Charles Berger discusses Enterasys acquisition and integration, increasing demand for mobility solutions.

You mentioned the Dell'Oro report and that touches on a key question. You have giant providers like Cisco and HP in the market, along with more recent entrants like Arista Networks. Help customers understand Extreme's position compared to companies like those. What are the differentiators for Extreme?

You're certainly right that the landscape is changing dramatically. You've got HP breaking itself into two companies and Juniper backing away from the enterprise marketplace.

We've always been known as a product company - products meaning high-performance Ethernet switches, very high-performance wireless capability (as our NFL and other venue relationships demonstrate) and an extremely robust SDN-ready operating system and now an SDN. [That's] a truly open and standards-based SDN strategy allowing brownfield as well as greenfield opportunities as opposed to our competitors, who want to lock you in even further with SDN and require forklift upgrades to your hardware infrastructure in order to get the benefits of their version of SDN. We think that is 180 degrees away from what the market wants from SDN. Then finally, exceptional customer care. When you talk to our customers about why they buy Extreme, in nearly every case the top of the list or the number two thing on the list behind technology is the fact that we pay attention to our customers, we give them exceptional service and support which our competitors are not known for.

From your perspective, how aware and open are customers to SDN at this point? Also, what differentiates your SDN strategy from competitors?

I can tell you it comes up in virtually every customer discussion. If you're in the business of providing networking for your enterprise, you've obviously heard about it and you obviously feel pressured to understand it and understand how it's going to affect your enterprise. It is a hot topic and it is starting to have impacts in the market. You've seen it in large service providers and hyperscale computing centers. Hopefully, you saw our recent announcement with Microsoft Lync and our plan to provide access and better quality of service to Microsoft Lync through our open SDN controller and our normal APIs. We see this as the beginning. It's still relatively nascent but it's certainly top-of-mind for everybody.

As far as what makes us different, it's what I mentioned a few minutes ago, the fact that we are using OpenDaylight as a standard for our controller, which we will harden and add features to very much in the Red Hat Linux model. Also, the fact that we've already shipped 12 million OpenFlow/OpenStack-enabled ports which means our installed base or anyone who has OpenStack can take advantage of our SDN applications. Being open as opposed to being proprietary is one of our biggest differentiators. I think the other is the network of technology partners that we're pulling together, including VMware, Intel, Microsoft and others who are either deploying SDN with us and/or developing applications to run on top of our version of SDN.


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