The convergence of networking and the data center is creating a new class of solution providers well versed in the virtualization and networking requirements of each. It's those types of solution providers that Extreme Networks has in its crosshairs as the company works to position for growth after a difficult 2009.
Last fall, Extreme chairman and co-founder Gordon Stitt said in an interview with CRN that Extreme would align its products and channel with a goal of driving data center solutions that use more carefully considered, more efficient, more scalable physical infrastructure with fewer network tiers.
For the channel, that alignment has meant a targeted recruitment program through which Extreme, along with the Advanced Infrastructure Solutions (AIS) division of distributor Tech Data, is hand-picking solution providers suited to those goals -- and rewarding them with faster entry into the higher echelons of Extreme's channel program.
"We'll on-board you at a level that's high up in our partner program -- a really competitive level in our program," said Rich Long, director of North American channels at Extreme, in a CRN interview. "Aside from you committing to a certain portion of time and requirements, we will pay for all of it, allow you to get training to get the certifications you need, and pledge to give you some launch MDF funds."
Long said Extreme created the program with help from Tech Data and had already seen some recruitment success. Among new Extreme solution providers are TechXtend, of Shrewsbury, N.J.; PCPC Direct, of Houston, Texas; and Inacomp TSG, of Walled Lake, Mich.
According to Long, the goal isn't to saturate markets with data center-focused Extreme VARs so much as identify and bring closer those solution providers best suited to Extreme's strategy.
"This market has gotten so competitive and so muddled, and some resellers are more like broadline resellers, whereas some are probably more in the sweet spot of what we're targeting, with a primary solutions stack," Long said. "Any partner today is looking around at who they're going to hitch their wagon to, and a lot of times, it's the money. We've seen some programs that are so cost prohibitive for partners to get into, and there's no guarantee of a quick return. We're confident we're strong there."
Tech Data was the choice, Long explained, because the distributor had "built an acumen" for data center through its AIS group that Extreme's other distributors don't have.
"The data center is evolving quickly, and Extreme Networks has put in place the solutions portfolio and rewarding partner program VARs need to profitably bring these technologies to their customers," said Pete Peterson, senior vice president and general manager of Tech Data's AIS unit, in a statement.
According to Long, Extreme's product releases will continue to reflect the targeted data center strategy as well, and also focus on an open architecture that supports VMware, Citrix, Microsoft and other virtualization environments.
Recent additions to Extreme's Ethernet switching portfolio have included its Direct Attach virtualized network architecture and XNV Virtual Machines lifecycle management software (priced at about $3,000 for 20 nodes).
Extreme on Monday also said it would combine its worldwide sales and customer support organization into a single worldwide field operation.
Extreme Vice President and General Manager of Worldwide Services Mike Seaton will run the combined groups, reporting directly to Bob Corey, acting president and CEO of Extreme. Helmut Wilke, current senior vice president of worldwide sales, is expected to remain with Extreme during the transition period.