Enterasys Challenges Data Center Rivals With End-to-End Fabric Strategy


Count Enterasys among vendors looking to attack the networking and data center convergence opportunity with a fabric strategy -- albeit one that according to Enterasys offers far more flexibility and ease-of-use for partners and customers than data center fabrics from Cisco, Hewlett Packard, Juniper and other competitors.

Enterasys launched OneFabric earlier this month, and like many rival fabric architectures, it's designed to simplify the management and provisioning of networking and data center resources.

But Enterasys' secret sauce, company executives told CRN this week, is that it offers end-to-end management of those resources beyond the data center and out to the campus and branch, covering the entire enterprise infrastructure -- wired, wireless, cloud, mobile -- on a single platform. It also does so from a single point, not with multiple management tools, offers an open, standards-based platform, and can be implemented with a customer's existing network infrastructure, eliminating the lead for a complete overhaul to make it work properly.

"All of these other vendors define 'fabric' within the scope of the data center and in many cases their obligation is only to the doorstep of the data center," said Ram Appalaraju, vice president of marketing for Enterasys, in an interview with CRN this week. "We are extending the notion of the fabric to the device and to the edge."

According to Enterasys, companies can expand their use of OneFabric as their needs grow, rather than rip-and-replace their existing networking and data center products to meet data center fabric requirements. There are three OneFabric choices for customers: OneFabric Data Center, OneFabric Edge and OneFabric Security. The management console is the OneFabric Control Center, which integrates with virtualization platforms from VMware, Citrix and Microsoft.

"You have granular control from an end-to-end view and the ability to rapidly diagnose products and fix them," Appalaraju said. "Some of the early adopter customers that have been on this bandwagon for a few months are telling us that it's allowing them to derive more value from virtualization. Trouble ticketing on the user side and the application side has gone down significantly, and therefore there's an overall op-ex reduction."

Data center fabric solutions have been heavily marketed in the past year, as vendors such as Cisco, HP, Brocade, Avaya, Dell and Juniper all offer variations on the idea of easier, more effective management of enterprise data center resources transformed with virtualization. HP's FlexNetwork, for example, also claims to offer easier management of compute, storage and networking resources from data center out to campus and branch.

Enterasys claims OneFabric will be more attractive to channel partners, however, because it'll make applications easier to deliver -- and therefore SLAs easier to tailor -- and also create up-sell and cross-sell opportunities as customers look to streamline management of other areas of their network.

It's also a more appropriate solution for smaller-sized customers, Enterasys executives said, because the focus is on streamlining how network resources are managed rather than addressing massive data center overhauls.

"Channel partners can go in and have the opportunity to have a strategy to get new customers without making them replace everything when they get started," said Charlie Van Pelt, director of North America Channels for Enterasys. "Partners want a solution they can win with and that's easy to understand."

Behind the OneFabric launch, Enterasys is offering training programs, demo capabilities and other resources for solution providers. It's also debuted the OneFabric Alliance Program, which has Enterasys in strategic partnership with vendors such as VMware, Palo Alto Networks, Silver Peak and Pivot3 that cover virtualization, security, WAN Optimization, unified storage and other adjacent technologies. Enterasys and those partners will offer joint marketing, promotional and vertical campaigns, reference architectures, and exhibition in Enterasys' Showcase Demonstration Lab.

The fabric launch is the latest chapter in what's been an ongoing channel strategy makeover for Enterasys this year.

In January, Enterasys revamped its Advantage Partner Program to provide more favorable terms for loyal partners and offer richer incentives for bringing new customers to the Enterasys line. In the spring, at Enterasys' Americas Partner Conference, the company emphasized data center, wireless and physical security as Enterasys' target areas for growth with partners.

Other recent additions include specializations in education, healthcare and physical security as well as program enhancements like back-end rebates and spiffs and partner resources such as lead generation tools. Enterasys is looking to nurture partners from all related technology backgrounds -- networking, storage, data center, virtualization -- because those functions are converging in customers, too.

"The server guys are increasingly getting involved in the networking purchase decision," Appalaraju said. "There is the need to do end-to-end optimization.