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Several partners championed Extreme's commitment to price-sensitive, yet feature-packed 1 Gb and 10 Gb Ethernet products and the strength of its data center approach. But they'd also like to see Extreme market its networking wares more as part of converged data center architectures with other vendors they sell, especially EMC, VMware and Citrix.
"As this industry goes through a technology shift, they have to work harder on their ecosystem relationships," said Peak Uptime's Martin. "We have to know what the hypervisor vendors like Citrix, VMware and Microsoft are doing. We need to understand what the storage players are doing. This is something where Extreme doesn't have the balance sheet to be the big player, but they are nimble and can build very strong partner relationships in order to position themselves in the data center. They have the technology, so it's very important for them to be active here."
Peak Uptime's Extreme sales are up 30 percent year-over-year, Martin said, and show continued strength particularly in state and local government and education (SLED) accounts. Those customers like Extreme technology, he said, but are also thinking about how to build more efficient networking and data center assets using converged plays.
"There's a little different nuance to what's going on in the industry now, and they have this leadership position in Ethernet at the right price point," Martin said. "So more of that needs to go into market positioning and relate to that ecosystem of relationships. There needs to be more of a comprehensive approach there because they can be uniquely positioned with their Ethernet speed and price point."
There's greater willingness overall by Extreme to listen to the channel -- through which Extreme fulfills more than 95 percent of orders -- and take their lead on the areas where opportunity is growing, Extreme partners agreed.
"Oscar was loud and clear when he came in that channel was important and that they would focus on channels," said Mike Ferney, vice president of merchandising at distributor ScanSource's Catalyst Telecom unit. "We love the energy they're bringing and that they're working harder at a global channel sales presence."
Even as it's remade its corporate team and focused on areas such as marketing, Extreme also has made sure to keep its technology strength in the headlines, partners said.
"Oscar made a call a couple of years ago that when Extreme came out with new generation products they'd go to the Tolly Groups and Gartners and IDCs and make sure they had the industry endorsement to help us [sell this]," Smeltzer said. "They had some pretty significant accolades. So you have their fabrics, the faster 10 Gig products, the price point and that endorsement. All that has really helped us."
Another thing that helped, Smeltzer and others highlighted, was Extreme's declaration that it would be focused not only on the education market but on the challenges associated with BYOD. A marketing campaign followed that included everything from telemarketing to ad blitzes in education trade publications, and the result of that, said Smeltzer, was that when solution providers went in to talk to higher-education customers about BYOD and building infrastructure to support things such as VDI technology, those customers had already heard of Extreme.
"I'm excited for more of that kind of marketing, specifically around data center," Smeltzer said. "It sounds like we'll be seeing more of that."
One more thing partners will be seeing is Extreme spelling out its role in the emerging software-defined networking (SDN) trend. The company earlier this week revealed its participation in U.S. Ignite, a public/private effort between the government and technology companies to drive high-speed networking -- particularly the transition from 10 GbE to 40 GbE and 100 GbE -- and concepts such as cloud and SDN. And back in June, Extreme put an SDN technology stake in the ground with the announcement that it would support the OpenFlow protocol across all of its ExtremeXOS-based Ethernet switches and support OpenFlow controllers and provide a plug-in for OpenStack.
It's early days for SDN and how it will change Extreme's networking go-to-market, but solution providers say it's important to attempt a leadership position now.
"I will want to hear how they're planting the seeds and how things like virtualization are leveraged in that," said Martin. "This is an important topic. It's not something that's a go-to-market topic right now, but it's not a matter of if it's going to happen, it's a matter of when."