2009 Channel Contenders: Data Networking3:00 PM EST Tue. Jul. 28, 2009
It isn't easy to go up against the San Jose big dog, aka Cisco Systems, but a handful of data networking vendors are seen as true contenders for a bigger slice of the networking pie, according to findings in the 2009 CRN Channel Contenders survey. The research sought to identify the top vendors that solution providers choose as alternatives to market leaders. Here are the top 10 alternative networking vendors according to solution providers.
More VARs surveyed said D-Link is the strongest contender against the incumbent Cisco than any other vendor. In the past year, D-Link has been busy rounding out its SMB router and switch offerings, including the all-in-one DIR-685, which features an SMB Wi-Fi router with integrated Network Attached Storage (NAS) and wraps in the personal flare of a digital picture frame. While Cisco has the enterprise market locked down, D-Link is the one to beat in the SMB space, an area where Cisco is pushing hard to be a true player.
Linksys isn't so much a contender against Cisco as it is a friend. Since Cisco owns the brand and recently phased out Linksys' SMB solutions in favor of Cisco SMB-branded gear, Linksys has been a consumer-only brand. So, Cisco doesn't really need to watch its back on this one. But Linksys' inclusion among the list of alternatives shows the dominance of both Linksys and its parent.
Like D-Link, Netgear makes no bones about its SMB focus. Netgear eyes the SMB with laser precision, offering up its innovative line of switches, routers and NAS devices. Another component that makes Netgear a strong contender is its lifetime product warranty on its ProSafe family of gear, which includes switches, firewalls and wireless access points. Launched in May 2007, Netgear's warranty offers lifetime replacement coverage for hardware failure, including fans and internal power supplies, to original owners of the gear. As long as the owner can show original proof of purchase, Netgear will replace it if it breaks.
If there's been any one company rattling Cisco's cage of late, it's Hewlett-Packard with its ProCurve Networking division. ProCurve offers top-notch quality gear backed by a lifetime warranty, while also offering the price-per-performance that makes it one of the best bangs for the buck on the networking market today. Add that to ProCurve's steadily increasing market share and its recent branching into Wi-Fi with the acquisition of Colubris and its new data center strategy, and HP's networking arm is one contender to keep an eye on.
Say what you want about 3Com, but no one can say the Marlborough, Mass.-based company isn't consistent. After ditching its enterprise focus years ago and working down market, 3Com made a return to form earlier this year, bringing its once Asia-only H3C line into the U.S. and hitting the ground running with a new roster of products, including a massive data center switch, a network management platform and a line of fixed-configuration Gigabit and 10 Gigabit Ethernet switches. 3Com's new strategy has H3C focusing on large enterprise and the data center, 3Com focusing on the SME and SMB market and TippingPoint locking down network security. Channel Contenders respondents believe 3Com has all its bases covered to be a true Cisco alternative.
Juniper Networks of late has broken free of the service provider shackles that restrained it in years past, making it a true player in the uphill battle against Cisco Systems. Over the past two years, Juniper has reinvented itself, launching a line of enterprise Ethernet switching products, a data center network solutions play and a virtualization and cloud offering with its Stratus Project. And it's only uphill from here as Juniper's new CEO Kevin Johnson truly takes the reins and steers the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based networking vendor toward some of its largest competitors' market share.
It's unclear how much longer Nortel Networks will remain an alternative, as the Canadian company looks to sell off its enterprise solutions business in a bid to reorganize itself from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. In June, Nortel revealed that it's auctioning off its carrier wireless business, and Nokia Siemens is the front-runner. Nortel also said it hopes to parcel out the rest of its business units, including Enterprise Solutions, a division that Avaya is said to be a key suitor.
Adtran has the SMB locked down, and solution providers know it. Adtran knows its bread and butter is the last mile, and plays that to its advantage, never straying from its focus. The Huntsville, Ala.-based company brings aboard SMB-focused VARs that want to offer their clients enterprise-level voice, data, video and Internet solutions on a SMB budget.
Belkin has its hands in a lot of cookie jars, but solution providers that take the time to look beyond its iPod accessories and other products and take a gander at its business and consumer networking gear have found success. Belkin touches wired and wireless networking, offering low-cost, high-performance products for both the office and the home, and taking advantage of the latest technologies like 802.11n. Its switches and routers have become synonymous with low-cost performance.
Also on the list is a high-end networking mainstay that in recent years has branched beyond just big iron and into smaller markets, while also tackling data center networking in a way only high-end networking players can. Extreme Networks touches pretty much any industry imaginable with its range of wired and wireless networking products. It has its hand in manufacturing, retail, finance, utilities and health care, while also dabbling in education and federal and local governments. On top of its broad product portfolio, Extreme also arms VARs with a host of professional services and custom offerings, like network design, voice and security testing, and more.
Brocade recently detailed its new channel partner program, the first major revamp since the data center and storage vendor acquired Foundry Networks in July 2008, a program the company said will better position it as a strong alternative to Cisco. Brocade's new global Alliance Partner Network channel program is designed to attract both storage and IP networking VARs with a selective and profitable program focused on ease of use, value and component-rich elements, according to the company.