Startup Cumulus Networks Hunting For Partners For International Channel Program Expansion

Startup Cumulus Networks, which is looking to shake up the networking hardware market with its Linux-based network operating system, is officially on the hunt for more channel partners.

On Tuesday, Cumulus Networks will expand its channel program to work with partners in Japan and Australia, after launching it in North America nine months ago, Reza Malekzadeh, vice president of business at Cumulus Networks, said in an interview.

Cumulus Networks, founded in 2010 by former Cisco and VMware networking engineers, is looking to duplicate the success of Linux on the server in the networking hardware market. While companies like Cisco sell tightly integrated networking hardware and software, Cumulus Networks touts its Linux-based operating system as a less expensive alternative that runs on commodity hardware.

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"We believe Linux is the lingua franca for the data center. If you have Linux on networking gear and servers, you can reduce operational complexity by having one language," Malekzadeh told CRN. "Today, organizations have to learn Cisco language for Cisco gear, and another language for servers."

Cumulus Networks inked a deal with Dell to resell Force10 switches running Cumulus software in January, and it also works with VMware and other vendors.

Tom Coull, president and CEO of Penguin Computing, a Fremont, Calif.-based Cumulus Networks partner, told CRN the startup understands how to work with the channel, offering lead sharing, co-marketing, deal registration and discounted pricing, among other benefits.

While companies that have already made investments in Cisco and other major vendors will be slow to switch, Coull said companies that transition to Cumulus Networks are seeing significant cost savings from the open source approach.

"It's cheaper to manage a switch using Linux than having a networking engineer do it," Coull said.

Cumulus Networks has built its business model around one- and two-tier distribution, and Malekzadeh said the startup uses both approaches in the eight countries where it currently sells through partners.

"As a small startup, we are being very pragmatic about how we go to market," he said.

Cumulus Networks, Sunnyvale, Calif., has raised $51 million in two funding rounds from Sequoia Capital, Battery Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz and VMware co-founders Diane Greene and Mendel Rosenblum.