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What's ailed Extreme Networks in recent years isn't that easy to put a finger on. Its financial position has stabilized, its networking and infrastructure technologies are acclaimed, and while its channel partners have been plenty frustrated, they're not abandoning ship.
There's just something missing. And VARs who have been around the vendor for any good length of time see some combination of marketing air cover, market penetration and true channel outreach as what's been lacking.
"I consider them to be a challenge," said Gary Berzack, CTO and COO of eTribeca, a New York-based solution provider. Extreme's products can match the feature sets and quality provided by the Ciscos and Junipers of the world, he said, and they're also good complements to Avaya -- with whom Extreme is tightly partnered -- and Wi-Fi solutions from the likes of Meru Networks, Ruckus Wireless and other providers.
But to Berzack, "it continues to be a challenge that the market just isn't asking for it. Extreme is a product that really needs to be requested."
So why hasn't Extreme been able to raise its profile?
"I'm perplexed by it," Berzack said. "They're fair, they're good people, and there are good margin opportunities."
Despite their dedication to Extreme's products, many solution providers don't see Extreme as the marketing powerhouse that will help it post true channel growth and true revenue growth in its target markets.
"They have great stuff and their R&D has never really been an issue," said one Extreme partner, who requested his name not be used. "But they just can't make the brand awareness piece line up for them. We have to spend so much time doing that for them, and that's really not what you want from your vendor. It's fine, and encouraged, to see resellers as extensions of your sales force, but we need to be backed up."
The perception of Extreme as great with technology and lacking with outreach is something VARs agree on. And it's a perception Extreme's new leader, Oscar Rodriguez, is looking to change.
Rodriguez, who became Extreme's president and CEO in August 2010, said he has a clear direction and strategy for the company going forward, and it starts with putting Extreme's best foot forward.
"We are better off adding value to the industry by focusing on the places we're good at," said Rodriguez in a recent CRN interview. "We've created a new strategy along those lines, and it's time for us to talk about it. Instead of, 'Let's try to meet the needs of all the different customers,' given the size of Extreme, let's pick and choose and places we can add real value and where customers have a real need and where there are partners we can enable. So, we're going to pay clear attention to a specific set of demographics."