Extreme Networks Leader On Offering A 'Better Alternative' To Cisco-HPE, Enabling Avaya Partners And New Partner Program

Moving Up The Food Chain

Norman Rice is leading Extreme Networks into a new era as it gobbles up strategic network assets from Avaya, Brocade Communications, and Zebra Technologies to move up the enterprise networking food chain.

Extreme is underway getting partners enabled to go-to-market with a much broader portfolio of networking solutions aimed at taking share from Cisco and Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, according to Rice, chief development, marketing and product operations officer.

In an interview with CRN, Rice talks about onboarding Avaya partners and customers, Extreme's technology roadmap, its pending acquisition of Brocade and unveils the vendor's plan to create a new Partner Program this fall.

What's your message to the channel community as Extreme's size and scope expands rapidly?

We offer a better alternative to HPE or Cisco. You're going to find a much friendly partner community here. If you want to build and invest in us, we'll take care of you. We're on the upside of this story, not the downside.

The partners I've talked to from Avaya have been awesome, and I think that says a lot. They welcome the broader portfolio that we're going to bring in the mix with Brocade, Zebra and Extreme.

How is your channel base changing since your recent acquisition of Avaya's networking business?

About 20 percent of the Avaya partners were existing Avaya and Extreme partners, which surprised me because I thought it would be higher. That means 80 percent are not Extreme partners. So we'll be onboarding those partners onto the Extreme platform, and we'll also be onboarding Extreme partners on the Avaya platform. This is going to help us in the market against the competition. At our partner conference in October, we're going to be rolling out our new partner program, what we're calling EPN (Extreme Partner Networks) 3.0.

What can Avaya, Brocade and Extreme partners expect from the new partner program?

It's the next generation of partner enablement. We're going to make available to all partners our next generation partner program. We had a unique opportunity to be able to look at and study three companies up close – Zebra, Brocade and Avaya – inside and out. We learned what worked and what did work for partner programs, technology, for supply chain, for fulfillment – all types of different things. We're taking best in class from each one of these to enhance our offerings. We're going to be enhancing it further by creating more incentives for our partners to get cross-trained, to cross-sell the technologies with additional rebate incentives and enhancements to our existing program. The objective is over the next 12 to 24 months to really cross-selling the portfolio.

How soon can partners start selling Avaya?

Right now. We started on Day 1 after completing the acquisition in July. So on day one, the price books were available, the rebranded product information was available for partners and customers and our sales teams. You're able to cross-sell, and the Extreme partners can sell the Avaya product immediately.

Now how we support that on the back end is through our transition services agreement. What we put in place with Avaya, is Avaya onboards the new partner in their world, so that the partner can have access to the portfolio, access to the distributors and access to the discounted mechanisms which we're governing. It's being governed by Extreme through the transition services agreements being fulfilled through Avaya during the transition period.

Do you think Avaya filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy hurts Extreme in any way?

It's not a damaged asset as you would think when you think of bankruptcy. They get painted by the bankruptcy brush. Avaya went through bankruptcy not because of the people, the technology, customers or partners; they went into bankruptcy because of purely, call it, economics. It was a peaceful transfer of capital that occurred where the major debt holder and the equity holder came up with the deal. We got lucky in a way to get involved in this transaction.

Your acquisition of Brocade's data center business recently hit a regulatory delay. Where does that stand right now?

We were updated on [August 4]. So Broadcom and Brocade participate jointly in the hearings. The response and information that we've received is that they felt very good about the meeting. They were trying to get something done in August, that's not likely the case. It's going to be in September; it could be at the end of September. The outside date to get this approval is October 2. We were told by Brocade and Broadcom that everything is on track. The worst case is they get the approval by October 2.

How prepared is Extreme to hit the ground running with Brocade?

We have no further approvals that we need. We're ready to go. For Extreme, we've got all of our systems from our planning perspective – we call it our Go Ready Day – ready for September 1. So we're ready whenever we're told by them that they received their approval. We can close literally the same day or the day after.

What is one game-changing technology Avaya has brought to Extreme?

They bring fabric with over 1,000 customers who have deployed a simple to use fabric across the entire campus and enterprise. It brings agility, 'self-networking' is a term that they use, hyper micro-segmentation.

Could you explain hyper micro-segmentation?

When a device talks to another device, think of an IoT environment for example, if a hacker breaks into it, the only thing they'll ever be able to decipher is that one communication where the one IoT device talked to the other IoT device. Because each conversation is unique and that's hyper segmentation/stealth networking. It's very prevalent in IoT environments like health care or the federal government.

What's another Avaya technology that partners should be pumped about?

For us, it's a next-gen chassis. We have chassis at Extreme, and the Avaya team went out and built the next-gen chassis to replace the old Nortel chassis. We think with some modification and enhancements, it will fit nicely into our portfolio and be a next step for our chassis customers. So we'll have a platform we didn’t have.

I've also been blown away by the Avaya people we've onboarded – outstanding technologists. They've strengthened our bench in our development side, our product management and product marketing side.

What is Brocade's data center technology bringing to Extreme?

It's greatly enhanced our position in the data center. It’s a best-in-class, what we call "big-boy" data center technology. Brocade's SLX platform is brand new. It came out in March and is best in class. Brocade spent years developing this platform and we get to benefit from it rolling out in March. The orders and the feedback from customers have been excellent. That's one thing that partners get where, traditionally with Extreme or Avaya, our data center technologies are solid, but they weren't designed for the scale and complexity that the Brocade technology was designed for.

Are you already seeing any benefits from the new Avaya and Zebra portfolio?

When everything closes and is combined, we'll be the number three size company in the enterprise space. What that's done for us, and what it's already been doing for us, is getting us into more RFP's and more opportunities. Because typically, the top two or three vendors are considered in those proposals. So we've seen that momentum already happening. Partners will have more opportunity based on being more known and involved with [the enterprise] sectors and having a larger scope from a technology perspective.

Where is your product roadmap heading?

What you'll see is a broader breadth of technology from the core campus and then on the access layer. You got ExtremeWireless that has outperformed because people know that we have wireless now. Then the WiNG Wireless is performing ahead of plans. The pull-through effect that we've seen has been better than we've expected. As a technologist, you'll have best in class in the data center. In the core campus, you have two awesome platforms to choose from because we're not trying to create a monolithic platform. In the access layer, you have WiNG Wireless and ExtremeWireless – both have different use cases designs. All of that is going to be managed by the Extreme Management Center. From soup to nuts, it's one console for management, one console for policy or network access control and one console for our analytics, which we've rolled up into what we call our Unity platform where you can get it all three capabilities on one appliance.