Enterasys Partners: OneFabric Strategy Gives Us An Edge

Enterasys' big bet on data center architecture appears to be paying off with a level of partner enthusiasm for its OneFabric strategy that the company hopes will cement its place as a formidable competitor to data center titans such as Cisco and Hewlett-Packard.

Enterasys launched OneFabric Data Center in November: a converged networking architecture designed for more flexible and easier provisioning of data center resources and control of everything from core data center infrastructure to campus and branch elements, from edge switching to mobile devices, using a single management pane.

The concept hits at several customer pain points: Enterasys said most customers are spending 40 percent more on network resources than they need to. When they do look to optimize their data centers using one of the many vendor fabric strategies available, they're often forced into pricey forklift upgrades, the company said.

The hook for Enterasys is that OneFabric is an open, standards-based platform and can be deployed using a customer's existing infrastructure, meaning that a customer can start with minimum Enterasys resources and gradually add products and features, never being forced into a full rip-and-replace. It also means OneFabric can be a good fit for smaller customers that don't need colossal data center resources but do need the flexibility the converged model provides.

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In January, Enterasys rolled out OneFabric Edge, which includes its virtualized WLAN controller Wireless Services Engine being added to Enterasys' wireless products, and an entry-level K-series modular switch, leveraging Enterasys' CoreFlow2 ASIC technology. The Wireless Services Engine includes integrated application services and can support 240 access points and 2,048 users per instance, according to Enterasys.

In early February, Enterasys added OneFabric Edge Starter Bundles, which include Enterasys Edge switches, 802.11n access points, the Wireless Services Engine and management software. The bundles are intended to be sold by partners as turnkey packages for potential OneFabric customers.

"If you sell the edge as an architecture, not just product, you have such a better opportunity to engage the customer on a continuing story after that," said Ram Appalaraju, Enterasys' vice president of marketing.

The bundles start at $23,000, include Enterasys' standard lifetime warranty, and are sized for 25,000- and 50,000-square-foot deployments. Channel partners can receive deep discounts on bundling sales as well as other program incentives, according to Enterasys.

The next phase of the OneFabric strategy, OneFabric Security, will be launched later this spring. Appalaraju said partners should expect additional channel incentives and training resources as Enterasys gears up for its May partner conference in Las Vegas.

Enterasys has received kudos for the revamp of its Enterasys Advantage channel program and rallying call to channel partners to focus on data center, wireless and physical security as target growth areas. OneFabric is intended to drive those priorities.

NEXT: One Enterasys Partner Expects Sales To Quadruple

Chip Thompson, general manager of LevelOne Technology, a Waco, Texas-based infrastructure solution provider and Enterasys Platinum partner, said the OneFabric concept has caught on with his customers, many of which are K-12 school districts stymied by budget cuts. They like the fact that they can optimize their data center and networking needs gradually, he added.

"They really like to manage using the single pane and like the idea of being able to integrate a wired solution into their wireless management tool and set policies for wired and wireless even on products that aren't labeled Enterays," Thompson said. "Usually, the customers are interested in doing it a piece at a time and they like being able to stitch on another piece with OneFabric without doing a great, big forklift upgrade. It works well for them to cut their teeth on one piece before they start adding other pieces."

Most of his OneFabric customers start at switching and the wireless edge, Thompson said, because they're wrestling with bring-your-own-device challenges. With OneFabric, Thompson's team can apply it to a range of customer needs; Thompson said he's seen OneFabric deals as modest as $30,000 and as sizable as $800,000.

"Technology directors say you never get fired for buying Cisco, but if they start with a piece of Enterasys and get comfortable and they know you, like you and trust you, they see the long-term cost benefits of working with you," he said. "We like to keep our customers for a long time; we're not in it for the one-hit, see-you-later type of sale."

LevelOne's Enterasys sales in recent months are double what they were for all of the previous year, partially a reflection of pipeline business that paid out during the current quarter but also a testament to Enterasys' strength, Thompson said.

The company expects its Enterasys business to have quadrupled by the end of the year. LevelOne is also a professional services partner for Enterasys, meaning it's called in to provide services on Enterasys deals all over the country.

Thompson praised Enterasys' overall channel support and regular incentives such as sales spifs.

"We're not a huge VAR, but the company is so transparent and we can go all the way to the top with them if we need to," Thompson said. "We rely on them for assistance and product knowledge and they've demonstrated long-term support."