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Extreme Networks CRO: ‘We’re Leading’ In Network-As-A-Service Movement

‘Now we‘re seeing network as a service really move and we are leading in that effort,’ Joe Vitalone, Extreme‘s new CRO, tells CRN.

The networking-as-a-service trend is only picking up steam as the COVID-19 crisis drastically changes IT needs -- and budgets -- for many businesses. But compared to as-a-service models in other areas of tech, such as software and unified communications, networking as a service is still in its early days.

Joe Vitalone, the new chief revenue officer for Extreme Networks, said that overall, the networking industry is late to the as-a-service game. However, recent events have furthered demand for vendors to step up their respective consumption-based IT games.

“Now we‘re seeing network as a service really move and we are leading in that effort,” Vitalone said of Extreme Networks.

[Related: Extreme Networks’ Joe Vitalone On Restructuring And The New Focus On Networking As A Service ]

That‘s because the networking specialist last year acquired Aerohive Networks, a leader in cloud managed wireless LAN services. The deal has helped Extreme, a provider of enterprise networking equipment, build out its services and solutions focus.

“Other vendors are still trying to figure it out and they‘re not quite where Extreme is. A lot of that, [Extreme] acquired – with the Aerohive technology and what they built in the cloud, Extreme has been able to pivot very rapidly to cloud-enabling their platforms as well,” said Robert Huff, president and CRO of StepCG, a Covington, Ky.-based Extreme partner.

StepCG, a networking-focused MSP, has a base of healthcare, education, and government customer who are looking for new, flexible ways to consume remote connectivity and security solutions. Cloud-based applications and services are also helping StepCG move faster and stay agile as an MSP, said Ed Walton, StepCG‘s CEO.

“Customers want to focus on their core services, whatever those might be, and are doing more with less. COVID is showing more people the power of the cloud, and we are eating our own dog food,” Walton said.

Partners, along with end customers, began to demand consumption-based solutions to address the new, immediate networking needs they had once the pandemic began to sequester employees and students to work and learn from their homes, Extreme‘s Vitalone said. But from a financial standpoint, the timing wasn’t great for many businesses that suddenly needed IT funds, he added.

“Most companies are on a fiscal calendar year. [COVID-19 and the resulting shutdowns] happened around St. Patrick’s Day in March when budgets were already baked, and a lot of money was already spent … There wasn’t a lot of money from a capex perspective to be spent on the second half of the year, but there was huge demand for data networking, videoconferencing and a lot of different tools,” Vitalone said.

Many businesses already had digital transformation on their roadmaps, but the COVID-19 crisis sped up adoption of the consumption-based IT model, StepCG‘s Walton said.

“There was no dry run for COVID. I really think it has escalated all things as a service, but especially networking as a service, because [the pandemic] really turned everything upside down, including budgets,” he said.

Another way Extreme is getting deeper in the as-a-service space is through partnerships with third-party vendors. VoIP provider Ooma in August launched Ooma Wi-Fi, a wireless networking service for small and medium-sized businesses using Ooma‘s cloud-based phone service. To serve up Ooma Wi-Fi, the provider is white labeling ExtremeCloud IQ, an onboarding, monitoring and management platform for wireless access points, switches, and routers.

Ooma Wi-Fi has been a hit so far with customers, Vitalone said. “We‘re really pursuing a lot of ways to get out there with as a service through our MSPs,” he added.

Vitalone, who joined the company in June, took over at the helm overseeing global sales, services, channel, and sales operations for Bob Gault, former CRO and services officer for Extreme Networks and interim channel leader, who left Extreme Networks in January.

In addition to networking as a service offerings, San Jose, Calif.-based Extreme also stepped up with its Lending Enablement and Assistance (LEAP) program and extended and deferred payment terms through its distribution partners to help MSP partners sell more networking as a service, while deferring owed payments to Extreme through the end of 2020.

“We‘re offering these programs through our key distributors in the U.S. and globally because customers are putting projects on hold or a looking for delayed payment terms,” Extreme Networks Chief Operating Officer Norman Rice told CRN in April. ”Partners want to ensure they get paid in order to deliver the service, and yet they have to deliver the service to get paid, so partners are caught in the middle right now.”

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