Archive for August 2012

Can Avaya succeed as a computing vendor? With the data center market in transition, there is an opportunity there.

VMWorld 2012 this week featured every major computing vendor present to show their wares to over 20,000 attendees. This included the expected list of companies–Dell, Cisco, EMC, Brocade, HP and Avaya. That’s right, do a double take, that’s Avaya, the former company of Bell heads that makes phone systems and sells call center software. In cause you haven’t noticed, though, this is a whole new Avaya. Since Kevin Kennedy became CEO, the company has gone through a significant transformation. In actuality, CEO Lou D’Ambrosio started the transformation of Avaya, but Kennedy has accelerated it.

In addition to the traditional phone stuff that we’ve come to know and love from Avaya, and Aura, the collaboration software platform, the company added a broad data portfolio through the acquisition of Nortel. It also has a great developer program with DevConnect (kudos to Eric Rossman for the great work here) which was bolstered by ACE (Agile Communication Environment), also added with the Nortel deal. Avaya recently acquired Radvision to add video, and it entered the client computing market with its Avaya Desktop Video Device (with the Flare Experience user interface). And now, at VMWorld, the company launched its data center “stack” called “Collaboration Pod”.

Earlier this year, Riverbed released a product known as the “Granite Edge Virtual Server Infrastructure (VSI)” to optimize the performance of many of the applications that it’s core product, Steelhead, does not. 

For those not familiar with the differences between Steelhead and Granite, the traditional Steelhead product optimizes the performance of file-based applications, such as Word and Exchange, through a number of acceleration technologies such as compression and TCP optimization.  Granite addresses block level applications such as database and virtual machines. 

While the continued growth of Steelhead demonstrated that there were a number of “killer apps” for it, the killer application for Granite was not obvious, since there aren’t that many block storage based applications run in the data center. 

This year’s VMWorld kicks off this week in San Francisco and I’m expecting the typical huge audience.  One of the reasons why VMWorld has become the premier show that is has is because virtualization itself is changing.  Virtualization used to be a tactical technology used to consolidate servers.  Have 10 servers?  Consolidate that down to one or two.  The architecture fundamentally stays the same, just fewer physical boxes. 

Virtualization today though is a much more strategic technology.  It powers the cloud, desktops are being virtualized, storage is being virtualized and data center operations are being automated.  However, being more aggressive with virtualization does bring some new risks to enterprise IT.  To understand what some of these are, ZK Research and Xangati, a cloud and management solutions provider, recently ran a survey looking at where companies were with cloud deployments, where they were going and what the challenges were for future deployments.

Brocade last week released its quarterly earnings and also announced that long time CEO Mike Klayko would be resigning his position at the company.  This ends a lengthy tenure for Klayko who joined Brocade in 2003, through the acquisition of Rhapsody, and then was named CEO in 2005.  

One of the questions I’ve been asked often is what kind of CEO should Brocade hire to replace the flamboyant Klayko?  I think the incoming CEO needs to be a nuts and bolts person with good operational strengths and also someone with a channel background to continue what Klayko put into motion.  Despite the flat stock price over the past several years, it’s hard to argue the company isn’t well positioned to take advantage of current trends such as cloud computing and virtualization. 

To understand why I feel that way, let’s look back at the Klayko tenure and the positives and negatives which put Brocade in the position it’s in now. 

Take a long-term look at where the business is today and where it’s going over the next five years and base the decision off of that.

There are many choices today for enterprises evaluating Unified Communications and Collaboration (UC&C) solutions. The struggle for evaluators, though, is trying to determine which solution is best. Some solutions are oriented around the desktop, some revolve around the network, some lead with voice, etc., leaving decision makers scratching their heads as to which is the best for their organization.

To solve this quandary, I recommend that anyone considering or in the midst of deployment think of the solution as a platform and not a product. What I mean by making a “platform decision” is to take a long-term look at where the business is today and where it’s going over the next five years and base the decision off of that.

One of Katy Perry’s first hits was a song called “Hot N Cold” where she sings “Cause you’re hot then you’re cold, you’re yes then you’re no, you’re in there you’re out you’re up and you’re down…” The video actually shows her going through different waves of emotion from joy at her wedding to confusion when they break up, and to anger later. I contend that the wedding was a mere analogy for her frustrations with wireless LAN technology.

Tablet computing, smartphones and the current BYOD craze have put a significant emphasis on the corporate wireless LAN network. Even in this current macro where IT spending seems to be in a bit of a lull, one of the few areas of enterprise networking spend that’s growing is Wi-Fi. A recent ZK Research survey shows Wi-Fi being the No. 1 area of spend for network infrastructure over the next 12 months. This should come as no surprise, considering the majority of devices coming into the enterprise are wireless-only.

All of this activity has given credibility to the notion that the wireless network, in many organizations, will become the primary access network, instead of an augmentation to the wired network. The question I pose is whether the Wi-Fi network is really ready to assume this role. As Peter Parker’s uncle said before he died, “with great power comes great responsibility.” I’m not convinced, at this point in time, that wireless LAN is really up to the task of operating as the primary network.

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