Extreme Networks CEO Reveals Why He Expects To Take Market Share From Cisco And HPE After Brocade, Avaya Acquisitions

Extreme CEO: Watch Out Cisco, HPE-Aruba Networks

Extreme Networks has been on an acquisition spree this year nabbing key networking assets from the likes of Brocade Communications and Avaya.

"With the consolidation of these companies, our position will only be strengthened against Cisco and HP," Extreme CEO Ed Meyercord, in an interview with CRN. "We're seeing HP becoming more commodity-like which opens doors for us to become more specialized for enterprise customers."

Meyercord also discusses doubling the size of Extreme's partner program, the company's M&A strategy and the importance of buying Avaya and Brocade technology.

How will Extreme position itself now to win more against Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE)?

The more customer focus that we can bring across networking, and the focus as a pure-play networking provider, will allow us to be more competitive. Some of our competitors are a lot larger and somewhat fragmented. When we look at Aruba Networks and HP, HP has given up on large-scale enterprise data center – they're reselling Arista [Networks]. At the same time the Aruba wireless acquisition is now becoming more and more part of HP, which means they're losing their vertical focus and becoming more commoditized. We're seeing HP becoming more commodity-like which opens doors for us to become more specialized for enterprise customers.

What about against Cisco?

Cisco makes about ten acquisitions a year. They have a very large set of skews and product portfolio and they're ability of focus becomes more and more difficult. Whereas, we are laser-focused on enterprise networking and we'll be the only player that is solely focused on end-to-end networking solutions which today are very important.

Is Extr eme planning to make any major changes to the Avaya-Brocade technology once the acquisitions close?

Our strategy is to not to make radical changes to the technology. We're going to protect all of the technology. If you look at the operating system [platforms] from the Avaya that are with customers, and you look at the VDX switching platforms and the MLX routing platforms from Brocade and the new SLX that they're rolling out, it's going to be business as usual for customers and partners. We're going to protect their legacy investments in these technologies. Our teams have been meeting face to face and are very excited about how these technologies will come together and what the product roadmap will look like in the future.

Specifically looking at the data center, how will Brocade boost Extreme's position?

When we look at the edge, people want low-cost, simple, secure solutions and then as you move up into the data center, this is where people start looking more at network automation – and we're getting great technology from Brocade on the network automation side with the fabric technologies we're picking up. We're going to have a very compelling story to tell in the data center. We also still have our visibility and control with our software from Extreme that we'll be able to overlay over the entire environment. That's what we're really excited about.

Is Extreme's focus going to be geared more heavily on the enterprise market now?

Yes. Brocade has fabric technologies that are exciting to us. They're just coming out with the SLX [data center] platform. It's going to position us to be very, very competitive in the high-end data center. So as we look at the enterprise customer segments, we're picking up great reference accounts – we're going to be more and more focused on enterprise customers in our targeted verticals. Where we're going to be driving our solutions into the marketplace.

Why should partners be looking more closely at Extreme now compared to Cisco and HP?

What we hear from our partners is that our partners can make a lot more money working with Extreme and that it's harder and harder for them to made money and really drive a profitable business working with Cisco and HP. Partners have an opportunity to be more profitable working with Extreme than they do with Cisco or HP.

When do you think Extreme will close on the Avaya and Brocade acquisition?

Assuming that we are the winning bidder for Avaya, we still have a couple of weeks before that to be finalized. The closing of that transaction is likely to be the very beginning of July. That's when we would expect to immediately bring in our teams and transition partners.

On the Brocade side, we expect that to be in the August time-frame. Once we close on these acquisitions, we will be out in front in advance communicating with our partners.

You also acquire Zebra Technologies wireless LAN business in October. Is the integration process complete yet?

It is. Everything is integrated. We moved very quickly integrating Zebra. It was a pretty rapid transition.

We picked up some great wireless partners as part of that acquisition and it's going better than expected. From our last quarter results, you'll see the wireless was the big driver growth for Extreme.

Are you looking for more acquisitions as possible growth opportunities?

We will be opportunist in looking at M&A opportunities that fit ... where we can bring in assets that will contribute to our product portfolio, our technology vision and then add to our base of customers. Also the human talent that we're picking up at these companies are incredible.

Why should Avaya and Brocade networking partners be excited to join Extreme?

It's going to be great for partners given the fact that we believe we have the leading partner program in the industry. Partners can make the most money with Extreme. Now we're clearing the number three player [in the market] and we're expanding our position in the enterprise space so we can move upmarket. Avaya-Brocade really strengthens our position in the data center and then the large-scale enterprise data center.

Should current Avaya and Brocade partners expect any changes in regards to partner programs?

We're leaving the partner programs in place that people currently have. So in terms of market development funds, how people are getting paid and support – it will be business as usual. Then we're going to look to combined best practices from the three different programs.

That means the current arraignments that partners have with either Avaya or Brocade, we want to leave the economic arraignments in place and support the current business that they're doing … In October, when we have our partner conference – that's when we'll look at putting out new programs for our partners.

How big of an increase do you expect in your channel once these acquisitions close?

We expect to roughly double the size of our partner program, which is really exciting.

We want to make it really easy to do business with Extreme. What it means out of the gates, is business as usual – we don’t want to disrupt or change the current flow of business.

Where do you see Extreme ranking in the market today?

The number three player in the market. Our competition is Cisco and HP. With the consolidation of these companies, our position will only be strengthened against Cisco and HP. As the only pure-play networking provider, and as we get more and more focus on customer solutions in our verticals, it's going to make it easier for our partners to position Extreme and to win business.

Why does being a pure-play networking vendor matter in the enterprise?

Because we're the only pure-play networking company in the industry that's focused on the enterprise, which is end-to-end wired and wireless both from the wireless edge, all the way through the data center. Extreme use to be competitive in the middle-tier enterprise data center, now with these acquisitions, it's going to push us up market into the larger scale enterprise. We'll cover the full enterprise customer.

Why should your channel partners be pumped about Extreme in the second half of 2017?

Because first of all, the expanding size of our company and the scale. Extreme now has a strengthened brand and we have exciting new technologies that we're adding to our portfolio that allows us to be much more competitive. Our partners should be excited because it's going to be easier to do business with Extreme and they're going to have an opportunity to do much bigger business with Extreme and make more money.