Extreme Networks' MoJo to outdo Cisco, HPE: CEO Ed Meyercord

The new avatar with Avaya, Brocade and Zebra Wireless LAN is powerful, alive and kicking, says Ed Meyercord, President and CEO at Extreme Networks

Credit: Extreme Networks

A year ago, Extreme Networks started its hyper acquisition spree with Zebra Wireless LAN. The networking giant since then bought the networking division of Avaya and Brocade’s datacenter networking business.

CIO India had an exclusive interaction with Ed Meyercord, president and CEO, Extreme Networks on his India visit. Ed elaborating on tech MA and competitive landscape in the software-defined networking world says, “We are now industry’s sole vendor that’s focused on delivering ‘end-to-end’ wired and wireless software-driven networking solutions.”

Edited Excerpts:

Extreme Networks acquired chunks of Brocade and Avaya in the past year. What’s the big plan as many traditional hardware networking vendors struggle to survive?

The plan is to concentrate on networking, where we see the network as a strategic asset. It’s really about a software-driven approach that makes it easy to deploy ‘end-to-end’ networks and provide complete visibility and control across the entire networking environment right from the access edge all the way to the datacenter. We are the industry’s only player solely focused on delivering ‘end to end’ wired and wireless software-driven networking solutions.

Our bigger competitors Cisco and HPE are making acquisitions across technology domains. Cisco has made many acquisitions - which I call shiny objects – to chase different products which they push onto the customers. We take a customer-oriented approach to improve the quality of experience for the people delivering networking by making it easier for them to deploy secure solutions with visibility and a higher quality of experience to the users.

Is the reference to the shiny objects as the non-networking companies acquired by competition?

I guess that’s the big question on where do the lines actually blur in today’s complex and non-siloed IT infra. Be it a security company acquisition or in terms of selling products, are they selling a product or bunch of products or integrated end to end solution to the customers based on the vertical. That’s where Extreme Networks is different as we are exclusively focused on the enterprise networking segment including service provider datacenters.

We are also reinforcing our customer service as being the only vendor with 100 percent insourced customer service team. When someone calls into the technical assistance center, the person that picks the call resolves the issue. That makes the big difference for our customers.

Do you seriously have the fire-power now to compete the big networking boy Cisco with the new integrated story?

Absolutely. We truly believe to have the most competitive solutions across PINS (Places in the network) at the edge and the wireless side. We have excellent technology with the traditional Extreme for dense environments for both - wired and wireless. With Zebra distributed Wi-Fi solutions, we can offer very diverse and robust wireless portfolio with differentiated technologies in terms of security with AirDefense products, guest portal service, and location-based technologies.

And we have an age-old great story in campus switching. The recently launched automated campus wherein Avaya fabric has been integrated with Extreme’s wireless IPs. Unlike CISCO, HPE and other providers, we have a fabric that extends across the entire environment powered by our software. We combine the fabric with EMC (Extreme Management Center) that provides access control and analytics to stitch the ‘end-to-end’ networking story for our customers.  

The acquisition of Zebra Wireless LAN (known as Extreme WiNG) has been fully integrated into the core Extreme business. Has Zebra made you run faster?

Zebra Technologies’ Wireless LAN acquisition has been very successful for us. It is performing ahead of plans as the revenues are coming higher and the customer response has been better than expected as well. The pipeline of opportunities is growing fast as we can sell more than just Zebra wireless but the entire portfolio solutions of Extreme Networks. We are working with many big customers who see us as an alternative to Cisco as very few companies can provide the ‘end-to-end’ wired and wireless solutions.

Can you demystify the jargon Software Defined Data Centers as it appears to be more of a hype today?

If you talk to the engineers at Extreme, they will admit to working on software-defined networking for the past fifteen years. SDN is simply automating network functions that make it easier to do things like assign policies at the edge on the network on the campus where you may have IoT world with a series of devices and you may want to automate the provision on the network. Our Software makes it easy to suffice such networking functions for modern infra. With Brocade and Workflow composer in the datacenter, they make it very easy to automate those functions. As does Avaya fabric on the campus.

Demystification of SSDC or SDN to that aspect is that datacenter functions that were normally done by humans like coding with networking etcetera now get automated through software automation tools. Software Defined Data Centers in a reality across many industries and countries. And that’s the future of modern datacenters powered by software.

Besides Cisco as your biggest frenemy, isn’t Juniper or Ruckus your competition too? What about HPE Aruba that’s making lot of noise in wireless domain?

It’s all about Cisco and HPE as our big competitors. HPE’s Aruba acquisition was very successful and Aruba is one of our toughest competitors today. But we do believe they have problems with their management software of integrating Aruba across wired portfolio of HPE portfolio. There are large customers struggling with HPE Aruba’s common management interface which creates a window of opportunity for us.

We really don’t encounter Juniper or Ruckus much in the marketplace. Though Juniper claims to be an enterprise vendor it is more into the service provider segment. The same is the case with Ruckus. With Arris acquiring Ruckus this year, it will take them farther away from our competition radar.

The new Extreme with Avaya, Brocade and Zebra wireless under its fold means a larger spectrum of channel partners.  Are you after Cisco channels or forming your own army?

We have our own army channel partners as we engage with a couple of thousands of them globally. With our acquisitions, we are picking new partners and in many cases, there are larger partners too.

We want all the partners who do not want Cisco which we call ABC (Anything But Cisco) partners. These channel partners have a great opportunity with vendors like Extreme Networks for more personal touch, extended business growth and importantly make more money.

What’s your to-do list for CIOs and IT leaders on choosing the right networking partner for their digital transformation journey? And your three priorities for 2017.

Partner with a vendor which provides high service levels and nurture a good relationship with them. Some unplanned issues suddenly crop up in the networks hence the services interface at the vendor end becomes crucial.Select a single networking vendor for wired and wireless under one common management layer. In terms of mobility, we see the integrated access layer of wired and wireless converging and hence one vendor makes it simpler and easier to deploy networking solutions.Explore the software automation tools that allow automation of network functions in your IT infra.

My top priorities at Extreme Networks is all about execution, execution, and execution. We are extremely focused on driving our customers’ relationship to the next level. We have a big cross-selling opportunity to deliver more solutions to this huge customer base through our combined entity of networking companies. 

Most MA in tech world falter with the perceived promise of value-add of the joint entity. What typical pitfalls did Extreme Networks avoid with its spree of acquisitions?

We don’t chase shiny objects. And there are bigger companies – with large cash in their balance sheet- pay real high prices for a shiny object technology. Most times the technologies don’t get integrated seamlessly and many deals falter as the expected huge jump in revenues (after the merger) is often not realized.

We have been successful with MA in past couple of years is that we are buying at the right price and the acquired assets sit with our overall strategy as an ‘end to end’ enterprise vendor to address the fast-growing addressable market. And importantly the acquired technologies are complementary and best-fit to our stack and our customers’ networking Infra.

Through acquisitions, we are placing the hired people into our key teams. A couple of our competitors haven’t’ brought leadership teams (of acquired companies) into their teams and that’s another reason they struggle with MA.

We are executing acquisitions at the right price at the right place at the right time bringing an infusion of a lot of the synergy to the deals. We have completed Zebra acquisition. Avaya acquisition closed in July this year and we have announced integrated automated campus that combines our wireless with Avaya’s fabric. And we are prepared for Brocade integration this October.

Networking Vendor Checklist for CIOs: Ed Meyercord

- Partner with a competent vendor that provides high service levels.

- Prefer a single vendor for wired wireless with a common management layer.

- Explore the software tools to automate the network functions in IT infra.

- Don’t ignore the benefits of wireless solutions for your business.

Ed’s 3 big bets for 2017

1. Mobility IoT

2. Emergence of hybrid cloud

3. Software Automation Tools

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