“We will end up with a best of breed alternative to the vertically integrated vendors”

David Ginsburg, Sr. VP & CMO and Chiradeep Rao, Regional Director – India from Extreme Networks talked to Prashant L Rao about the vendor’s strategy of targeting profitable, fast growing niches in the networking space, its technology roadmap and plans for India

Where does Extreme Networks fit into the networking scenario?
David Ginsburg: The switching market is worth $20 bn. We want to go after the high growth verticals. On the data center side, we look at virtualized multi-tenated data centers, Cloud providers, Internet exchanges, HPC and Media & Broadcast. 50% of our R&D budget goes into data center products for creating high performance hardware and the software infrastructure that’s needed to support it. We have invested a lot into 10 GbE and 40 GbE and we are now working on 100 GbE. The second area of interest is education where there’s a lot of focus on BYOD. We have what we call the SummitStack, which is our virtual chassis architecture for campus environments. We also have a set of 802.11n WLAN access points and controllers. Then there’s the manageability, including user and device management, that fits into the onboarding space. The last one is backhaul, which is a new market for us. A couple of months ago, we introduced our cell site router family called E4G. We have 19 of the top 20 mobile operators in the world as our customers. We have announced a direct deal with Finnet for our E4G routers. Physical security infrastructure is another area that we are playing in. We partner with companies that build IP cameras and we provide the Ethernet infrastructure that ties it all together.

Where is Extreme Networks headed?
Ginsburg: We are in the $300 mn range right now, we are profitable, and we want to grow from there. We have 100 GbE equipment in the works and that stack will be out when the timing’s right. We are putting together a set of best of breed vendors for interoperability partnerships. Some of these have already been announced including QLogic for FC SAN and Fortinet for virtualized firewalling. Over the next two quarters, you will see announcements in storage, orchestration and virtualization. Those are the parts that are missing from our portfolio. What we will end up with is a best of breed alternative to the vertically integrated vendors.

What’s your take on open standards such as OpenFlow and OpenStack?
Ginsburg: We announced OpenFabrics last year. That provided the basis for our announcement last week on SDNs when we announced our intention to deploy OpenFlow across our product line. We are in a number of pilot implementations for that today. We have also announced that we are building plugins for OpenStack. We also have a partnership with NEC for their controller. Then there’s xKit, which is an open application developer community.

We hear a lot about IPv6 nowadays but adoption on the ground seems to be thin. What’s been your experience in this area?
Ginsburg: We have customers who are mandating IPv6 in their RFPs. There are a number of educational institutions that are running it live and are pushing the envelope on performance and scalability.

Coming to the Indian market, what are your plans for it?
Chiradeep Rao: We have been in India for seven to eight years and have a significant presence in the education sector. We are in 70% of the NITs. Similarly, we have a strong presence in the IITs. Then there’s a lot of money in the private education space. I’m also interested in the service provider space as we have a global agreement with Ericsson there.

Ginsburg: Ericsson take the majority of our product line and uses it as part of its mobile operator fulfillment. Secondly, Ericsson OEMs a blade from us that goes into its base station controller. That’s a big business for us. The product’s not painted Extreme purple; it’s painted Ericsson blue. The third area where we are working with them is in mobile backhaul, which is a new area for us.

Rao: From the Indian perspective, service providers have bought equipment from us for their branches. One of my key initiatives would be to become more relevant to the operator; while Ericsson remains important for us, we would also like to have direct relationships with SPs. The third area is the Public Sector. If you take the navratnas, 50% of them would be using our equipment. We have strong relationships going back five to six years with many PSUs in the power sector, minerals etc for switching and data center gear. Typically, once we get into the data center, we win the campus LAN as well. We have miles to go and there’s tons of opportunity. In the current scenario, where the general economy is looking a little low, the government looks more reliable, although the lead cycles are long.

Oil & Gas, HPC, meteorological research are all areas where we have a good solution set. In Media & Broadcast, service providers are looking to set up managed services facilities where they house content on one side, have a broadcast house on the other and provide the infrastructure to both entities. For this, they are setting up state of the art infrastructure including voice, video etc. That’s an area where we see a lot of potential going forward. Some of these players aren’t service providers per se. One example is Prime Focus. It’s a specialist, not a service provider but it is getting into this area. Some of the service providers are also entering this space.

Then there are large infrastructure rollouts such as the metros. When a metro is built, the latency required between stations and the command center is measured in milliseconds. There are tenders coming out where not everyone can quote since many players don’t have the equipment that can deliver that level of performance. These projects may not result in immediate deals but, when it does come, the deal size will be huge.

Lastly, I want to see what we can do from the enterprise data center perspective. In some cases, they already use our gear and these companies are more amenable to buying more of our equipment. The idea is to pick and choose customers, have a high conversion rate and then use them as reference points to build further. This part of the business is more predictable and sustainable over the long term.

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