Ruckus VP Valliappan On M&A Madness, New High-Performance Switches And Driving Growth Through The Channel

All In The Family

Ruckus isn't letting all the moving pieces of its planned acquisition by Arris International distract it from pushing ahead with new products, and Siva Valliappan, vice president of campus product management, says the company's partners should not be distracted either.

"I would say rest assured," Valliappan said. "The thing we've kept on our eye on is to maintain the customer experience and the partner experience throughout these transitions."

Ruckus today introduced a new family of network edge and aggregation/core switches, the ICX 7650, that it says is the highest-performance edge switch in the industry and is aimed at handling the ever-increasing demands of high-density Wi-Fi deployments, video streaming, encryption and management in verticals like hospitality, large public venues and higher education.

The new family of switches are being introduced as Arris moves closer to acquiring Ruckus, which was acquired by Brocade last year for $1.2 billion. Now, Brocade-Ruckus is set to be acquired by Broadcom this month for $5.9 billion. When that deal closes, Broadcom plans to sell Ruckus to Arris immediately.

Through all the changes, though, Valliappan said the company has maintained its focus on its customers and partners and developing the products and programs they need to stay ahead of the networking curve.

What would you say to partners who are unsure about Ruckus considering the transitions the company has gone through?

I would say rest assured. 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've 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. 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.

Is Arris' acquisition of Ruckus still in the works?

It is definitely in the works. Arris is 100 percent behind continuing to work with us on this. It is dependent on the Broadcom acquisition closing, but all indications are the Broadcom acquisition is on track. After the Broadcom acquisition closes, Broadcom will divest the Ruckus business unit to Arris.

Is there any reason for partners to expect bumps in the road while those transactions are sorted out? Should partners take a wait-and-see approach?

Not at all. This is why we've been rolling out our updated partner programs and bringing everything together. 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.

Will Brocade be part of Ruckus' switching business long-term?

All of the ICX switching products is part of the Ruckus business unity, and it will all be going to Arris together. It will be part of Ruckus under Arris.

Is this Ruckus' first actual switch?

It depends on how you look at it. It is the second switch that was developed when we were part of the Ruckus business unit. The first was the Ruckus ICX7150. That's the first family. The second family is the Ruckus ICX 7650. Both of them are coming from part of the Brocade portfolio that has been around for a good 20 years. We have a very long history and heritage behind this.

What's important for partners to know about the new family of switches?

We recently updated our partner program because one of the things we wanted to do after coming together with Brocade is to drive a lot of focus on what's really key and important to us, which is the channel. We have increased our investment in channel resources by about 3X. We added a lot more salespeople. We've added a lot more disty and channel partner reps. We have also added a lot more marketing investment. We also redid our channel programs to refocus to where we have seen a lot of success and traction. We have the primary Ruckus program, but we're also bringing up to speed a couple of specialized programs focused on specific verticals where we have an outsized market share. For example, hospitality, education and large public venues. It's really targeted at those venues that I talked about. It can apply to everybody, but it's really targeted at our higher education customers, our hospitality customers, and our smart city and large public venue customers.

Can you provide some sense of scale for the number of channel people Ruckus is hiring or other channel-related investments?

To give you a rough idea, we are bringing over about 1,700 people to Arris across the wired and wireless team. This is inclusive of engineering, sales, etc. We are a pretty engineering-centric company. The number of salespeople, inclusive of everything that we are bringing over is about 600 people.

What makes it a good fit for those particular verticals?

The 7150 is entry level, for a very price-conscious customer. Our very high-end 7750 is high performance. The 7650 is a premium small to medium aggregation platform. What makes this very interesting is we're trying to solve the following problems: One is the move to greater performance and new technologies in wireless. The early adopters of the latest wireless technologies tend to be those people I talked about. Hospitality because they care about the guest experience. Higher education because of the expectations students bring in when they come to a campus. And definitely in large public venues such as stadiums and smart cities where people are trying to roll out these things. They tend to be early adopters and really push the envelope on wireless technologies, which is where we've had much success. If these people are going to be adopting 802.11ax and ay, they need a network infrastructure that's capable of supporting this new technology.

What's the value proposition for partners?

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. 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.

What are those industry firsts?

The highest density that sets a new standard for how to move traffic between access points and the switch. We have the industry's highest density of multi-gigabit internet, supporting 24 ports in 2.5 G[bit/s], 5G and 10G between the access point and the switch. We believe we are the first to support up to 100 Gigabits. Most brands today are doing 10 Gigabits [per second], some are doing 30 or 40 Gigabits. If you're going to get more bandwidth to the access point, you have to be able to back-haul all of that up into your network, so that's key. We've built a platform that gives you the performance you need, that delivers the power the access points need and gives you the bandwidth you need when you start pulling back all of this wireless traffic. Everybody's doing 4K Netflix video streaming. When you do that, you need more bandwidth; you need more performance.

What challenges do quickly increasing power requirements and performance needs present to partners?

We don't want to lose sight of some of the challenges our partners have. How do they deploy networks? How do they make it easy to use? How do they make it operationally a low cost to support, manage and maintain? We have extended the capabilities of this switch where we're adding features such as ISSU and manageability. We have a capability within the Ruckus portfolio that allows you do deploy multiple switches in collapsed architecture and manage them like a single device. The 7650 can act both as an edge switch, as well as a fabric controller, which adds a lot of flexibility for our partners to deploy fabrics of different sizes based on the size of the customer they're working with. A small hospitality property may go with the 7650 controller-based fabric design while a larger property may use one of our existing controllers at a higher scale, like the 7750 as the controller for the fabric.