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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 some of the things that are driving the wireless market. What moves are you making to enhance your position in wireless?

Again, I've seen data from IDG and presentations that you and your compatriots have made at events for us about the explosion in mobility and mobility being one of the four key pillars of IT. We see that happening all over, [especially] in some markets that we're particularly strong in - K-12 and higher education and healthcare. Mobility is increasing in [importance] in those types of enterprises every single day. If I'm a doctor in a hospital, I probably don't even have an office so I don't have a place where I can plug into a wired infrastructure. Yet HIPAA and other laws are increasingly requiring me to maintain and create all of my patient records electronically. On top of that, there is increased tracking of patients. I was just in the hospital with my father, who is now doing well, but every pill -- and there were a lot over the week that he was there - was scanned. Every time a doctor or nurse practitioner visited him it was recorded and that all requires a wireless infrastructure. That's in building. If you look at out-of-building, the NFL is one of many types of venues where there is a strong motivation to enhance the fan or guest experience and in doing that creating additional revenue opportunities. We see that happening more and more as you think about theme parks, hotels, cruise ships. We think the field is just beginning to evolve. There are still a whole lot of unserved stadiums, particularly in the Division One colleges, and beyond that, internationally as well.

You clearly have strengths in that higher education market and in the entertainment/athletics markets. Where do things stand in pursuit of the mainstream corporate market? How are you faring in your day-to-day battles against the likes of Cisco?

I think our key strategic asset is our 12,000 customers and those customers range from a handful of Fortune 100 customers to a very wide range of customers in what I would call the mid- to small- or large enterprise marketplace where our technology, ease of use and customer care really provide us a strong differentiation, whether it's against Cisco or HP or any of the other vendors.

What do you see for the coming year? What should people expect from Extreme in the months ahead?

We completed at the very end of calendar 2014 the upgrade of our executive staff with the addition of three new sales executives, Jeff White to head Worldwide Sales and Marketing, Stephen Patak here in North America and Bob Gault to head our Global Channels. All of those are aimed at helping us grow revenue and perform better in our sales operation. We will only do that if we provide more value and better service to our customers. The three of them and the rest of our executives in the field continue to bring great information back. It's why we started investing almost the day I arrived at Extreme back in May of 2013, insourcing service and support and making that a positive not a negative differentiator. We're going to continue to invest in the technology. Our SDN team has incredible leadership with several people who left Cisco in frustration because they didn't believe the proprietary, closed, forklift-oriented approach to SDN was what the market wanted or what they wanted to be part of developing. We will continue innovation around the products as we continue a pretty hefty pace of bringing the next generation of products to the marketplace, upgrading Purview, upgrading NetSight and being ready to evolve SDN as the market is ready to use it.


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