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Dell EMC Takes Aim At Cisco With New Open Networking Push

Dell EMC is putting the pressure on Cisco and other networking market leaders, unveiling a slew of new open networking products at this week's Dell EMC World.

Dell EMC says it is using its commitment to open networking to put competitive pressure on industry powerhouse Cisco Systems and other market leaders, and will unveil state-of-the-art networking products during the Dell EMC World conference in Las Vegas this week.

According to Dell EMC's networking boss, Tom Burns, the company will unveil the industry's ­ first 25-Gigabit Ethernet top-of-rack platform enabled for open networking, as well as a new 10/100-Gigabit Ethernet open networking top-of-rack switch, 100-Gigabit Ethernet fabric uplinks, and a 10/100-Gigabit Ethernet switching platform for campus environments.

The 10-Gigabit Ethernet and 25-Gigabit Ethernet platforms will run on a new version of Dell EMC's Linux-based OS10 operating system, which will be released as OS10 Enterprise Edition.

[Related: Dell EMC World 2017]

The new releases come as Dell EMC's open networking charge begins to bear fruit. In its most recent ­ fiscal quarter, Dell EMC's service and networking business was up 12 percent year over year to $12.8 billion. Although the Round Rock, Texas, company does not break out networking, that business saw a "double-digit" increase, its highest level in two years, said Burns, senior vice president of networking, service provider and enterprise infrastructure.

That success, he said, is coming from customers such as large web technology ­firms and service providers and shows that Dell EMC's open, disaggregated networking approach can be a serious contender in a market dominated by Cisco. Dell EMC's ability to provide a large portfolio of options that can be offered as complete, ‑ flexible solutions is key, according to Burns.

A good example, he said, is its ability to offer VMware NSX in an open strategy. "When you look at the Dell Technologies networking capabilities, and pull in an NSX, it's a formidable challenger that's growing very quickly in the networking space whether it's virtual, automated or physical," he said.

"NSX is agnostic as to what hardware it sits on," Burns said.

"Our networking is disaggregated. You have a choice of software. Within the physical data plane, it's merchant silicon. Customers want to move forward with a more commodity/open approach. ... In many circumstances [Cisco] ACI ... requires a relatively large infrastructure upgrade to enable the ACI to work on the infrastructure and [it] won't work on anything but Cisco infrastructure. You've got to buy more Cisco stuff, and you're going to be locked in for a period of time," Burns said.

Dell EMC also has invested in training so its team can help partners. "We trained about half of our networking sales force that are now NSX-certified, and I'm not talking about the light reading," said Burns. "This is the deep-dive sessions into the product where they can do demos and proofs-of-concept. We're spending a lot of time seeing how we can be better together even though a lot of NSX is on non-Dell EMC infrastructure. How can we create more simpli­fication to the process for our customers and our partners?"

Dell EMC networking has seen strong growth in its channel business on a global basis, said Burns. "We've been focused on that," he said. "We put some resources in place at certain large VARs. We have more networking specialists to work hand in hand with them, and we saw close to double-digit growth in our channel business and our distribution business as well."

Scott Winslow, CEO of Winslow Technology Group, a Waltham, Mass., solution provider that works with Dell EMC, said the message around openness and ‑ flexibility resonates with customers.

"You can also give them the ‑ flexibility with a hyper-converged solution with XC Nutanix, VxRail, VxRack. If you can give them the software and networking solutions and add the consumption model in there, you've got an enterprise cloud experience on their floor. People are moving apps to the cloud or doing a lot of Software-as-a-Service. They're getting accustomed to that model, and it seems like it's incumbent on the OEM providers to answer that call."

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