Dell EMC Eyes Open Networking Expansion In 'Bold' Bid To Break Cisco's Proprietary Networking Stranglehold On Enterprises

Dell EMC networking boss Tom Burns is setting the company up for battle, pitting the Round Rock, Tex., IT giant and open networking advocate against industry stalwarts Cisco and HPE.

"Customers are looking to move away from traditional networking," Burns told CRN. "They want to do something different, and Dell EMC and VMware are the visionaries."

Burns published a blog Thursday about the advances Dell EMC networking has made over the last three years, highlighting the key differences between the company's open model and the proprietary model that has until now kept Cisco on top of the market. He previewed some of the market moves Dell EMC could make, including the introduction of more multi-rate 100GbE and next-generation open networking switching platforms aimed at the data center and campus environments.

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Dell EMC is also looking forward to increased adoption of its products, especially in service provider data centers, and "even more customers and partners integrating OS10 into their solutions," he said on the blog.

"Any battle, any competitive RFP, generally Cisco is there, and we'll see HPE, Arista and Juniper, and we'll win, but it takes a bold move," by customers, Burns said. "It's a bold move to move away from tradition."

In his blog, Burns drew a clear line between Dell EMC's open networking model and the "traditional" model. Traditional networking requires proprietary architectures, management tools, operating systems and specially-built application specific integrated circuits (ASICs), Burns argued. By contrast, Dell EMC's open networking solutions run on standard architecture and orchestration tools; optional SDN/NVO controllers; any networking operating system, open standard hardware and circuitry, Burns said.

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Still, while Burns is pleased with the traction he says Dell EMC is gaining in the networking market, it's got what may be a long, uphill fight on its hands. Cisco still commands more than 60 percent of the market share and Dell EMC barely registers in industry market share statistics compiled by research firms IDC and Gartner. Dell EMC and Cisco have a history of cooperation on networking while doing battle in the server market.

Stephen Monteros, vice president of sales at Ontario, Calif.-based solution provider Sigmanet, said he's seen Dell EMC's open networking solutions win deals recently, but noted that many buyers are still "kicking the tires," and that "at this point, moving to Dell networking is not a trend at the street level."

"It's hard to compare cost advantages," Monteros said, "because in many cases you're comparing apples and oranges."

Burns said that for now, Dell EMC networking solutions are "moving beyond pilots and trials and into full implementations" among certain customer types, including web scale data centers, cloud and among SaaS start-ups and telcos.

"We've had very good wins in very large enterprise [customers] that I can't disclose, full data center implementations and a disaggregated approach.

In order to be successful with Dell EMC's open networking portfolio, solution providers have to rely on a specific strategy, Burns said. Dell EMC open networking solutions "provide a value proposition without upsetting traditional networking providers because they don't do it," Burns explained. "It's an alternative solution. It competes with HPE or Cisco, yes, but neither of them really offer what we offer."

Dell EMC's Open Networking Initiative was started in 2014 as a way to promote the separation of network switching hardware from its software. The company launched the Open Network Install Environment with Cumulus Networks, and subsequently added more partners, including Big Switch Networks, IP Infusion and Pluribus Networks. About a year ago, Dell EMC introduced its new Operating System 10, which separates the base networking operating system from the network operating system. The company also collaborates with Microsoft.

Late last year, Dell EMC released a beta version of OS10 Enterprise Edition.