Ruckus Launches New High-Performance Switches, Seeks To Cool Partner Anxiety As Arris Transaction Approaches

Ruckus is keeping the pace of change brisk and assuring partners that it is business as usual as the company's acquisition by Arris International draws closer.

The Sunnyvale, Calif., networking firm does not expect any further delays to the long-awaited three-way transaction that will make it part of Arris and doesn't expect its channel or product strategy to change once the transaction is complete.

"This is why we've been rolling out our updated partner programs and bringing everything together," said Siva Valliappan, Ruckus vice president of campus products management, said. "Arris understands that our business is not their area of expertise, so we will be pretty much functionally independent. We have control of our own destiny."

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Ruckus today launched a new family of switches, the ICX 7650, aimed at meeting the edge network demands of high-density Wi-Fi in the higher education, public venues, and hospitality sectors. Ruckus says the switches are the highest performing, scalable edge switches in the market, supporting 100 Gigabit Ethernet and packing the greatest number of 90W ports on the market.

The switches are the first fixed configuration switch to offer 100 Gigabit Ethernet for campus networks, the company said. The ICX 7650 family will be available in the first quarter of 2018 and starts at $11,900.

"What we want to do for our partners is say hey, if you go to Ruckus, you have a one-stop shop where [customers] can buy their wireless and their wired," Valliappan said. "The stuff is guaranteed to work together, which makes it easier for them to deploy. We've taken care of the infrastructure needs, the wired product, as well as the wireless technologies coming down the road, and we can meet all expectations for the coming years: Performance, bandwidth, manageability, power and so forth. Those are the problems we wanted to solve, and in this family of switches, we have brought a number of industry firsts that will make it easier for our partners to sell."

The launch follows closely behind sweeping changes to Ruckus' channel program, and the arrival of a new channel leader, Raelyn Kritzer, in September.

Looming over the activity within Ruckus is the M&A maelstrom that has enveloped the company for the better part of a year.

Brocade acquired Ruckus in May of last year. Last November, Broadcom announced that it would buy Brocade in a $5.9 billion deal that would close before Aug. 1, 2017. As part of the transaction, Ruckus will be sold by Broadcom to Arris International immediately following the close of the deal. Those plans were delayed by a review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, and the acquisition was expected to close by the end of October.

However, Brocade and Broadcom withdrew and refiled CFIUS notice to allow for more review and discussion, and said the transaction would close by Nov. 30.

Ruckus partners told CRN last month that delays to the acquisitions were making it difficult to plan, opened the possibility of support problems and were giving competitors an opportunity to question the company's strategy.

Valliappan stressed Ruckus' commitment to the channel and said partners should keep pushing forward as if the acquisitions were not happening. All indications are that the Broadcom acquisition of Brocade is on track, he said.

"I would say rest assured," Valliappan said. "Acquisitions are part and parcel of the tech industry. Every one of us in networking has gone through multiple acquisitions at one point or another. The thing we have kept our eye on is to maintain the customer experience and the partner experience throughout these transitions."

"Our customers are in this for the long run because we have been steadily improving our overall performance," Valliappan added. "We've been able to grow our business sequentially every quarter for the last three quarters. Initially, when an offer comes up, people question a bit. But then it settles down. People are very confident we're going to continue in a forward trajectory. Everybody is doing the right thing to make sure it gets done. We think our partner community and our customer community are taking it in stride."

Al Brown, CEO of SmartWave Technologies, an Alpharetta, Georgia, solution provider that works with Ruckus said that earlier this year, he was so skeptical about the fate of Ruckus' management and partner program that SmartWave began considering competing networking vendors for major projects. Now, however, the company seems to have regained its footing and its mojo, as illustrated by the new switches.

"It was bumpy, and there's always fear," Brown said. "During the summer, we were saying we need to start getting up on other competitive products. We were doing an upgrade to the San Jose convention center. We had Ruckus and Brocade switches in there before this happened. We were like let's hold off on this order until we see what happens with the channel program. That's our job, that's our role. That's frustrating when you find a product like Ruckus that performs like it's supposed to perform, but we were real concerned management going to change, or deal registration was going to change. I'd be lying if I told you I didn't have concerns over the summer."

Since early September, though, things have changed for the better, Brown said. "We've noticed substantial changes and improvement across the board. It's almost like it's going back to what Ruckus used to be. It's getting back to that. The culture now is more toward the Ruckus culture rather than the Brocade culture. For us, it is a turn for the better. I don't even think about it. We're full speed ahead, and we see it in the leads and opportunities."