Archive for 2012

For decades, networks have been built on closed, proprietary infrastructure. It’s what’s allowed vendors to create unique features and differentiate themselves. Those features are what have enabled the networks to be as reliable, secure and resilient as they have been in the past. However, over the past couple of years it seems that “open” has become the new black when it comes to network infrastructure and every major vendor now has some degree of openness, although may not be 100% open (I’ll define later). Recently, though, I ran across a startup called Pica8 that is, by far, the most open networking vendor that I have seen to date.

Before I get into the specifics of Pica8, let me define why open networking has become all the rage and what it actually means.

Much of the media focus will be on the WiFi solution, but I think the cloud management software holds a tremendous amount of long-term value for Cisco.

Over the weekend, the news of Cisco’s $1.2 billion acquisition of Meraki appears to have leaked to the press. Apparently on Sunday morning there were a number of Twitter posts speculating the rumor of a Cisco acquisition. The story became widely reported by the media and then confirmed by Cisco’s SVP, Rob Soderbery.

The acquisition is a massive amount of cash for the 330-employee, San Francisco-based company with an estimated $100 million in bookings run-rate. Meraki was founded by three computer scientists from MIT and had collected $80 million in funding since they launched in 2006. The $1.2 billion in cash represents a whopping $3.6 million per employee, which explains why Meraki, which had earlier stated its desire to go public, was willing to become part of Cisco. There will certainly be a number of people with big smiles on the Cisco campus now.

This week Avaya held its reseller event, the Avaya Executive Partner Forum, in Cancun, Mexico. During the event the company highlighted some positive changes to its channel program and addressed some of the more controversial issues head on. Considering the number of new products that have come out of Avaya over the past couple of years, including new versions of Aura, IP Office, video, VSP 9000 to support the VENA architecture, wireless, collaboration pod, I really don’t believe product is an issue for Avaya anymore. The company must execute on its channel plans for growth, which will put it in a better position for an IPO in the future.

The most pressing issue Avaya and its channel partners face is growing network share. With all due respect to the excitement around video, cloud services and other hot markets, good old fashion networking is the key. If you look at the big buckets of IT spending, Avaya already owns about a quarter of the telephony share (give or take, depending on whose numbers you use), so gaining significant share there isn’t likely. Looking at the exciting video market, that market isn’t more than a couple of billion if you include infrastructure, end points and related items. If Avaya somehow miraculously took 20% share in that market, that’s equivalent to about $300M-$400M in revenue. However, just 5% of the $20 billion Ethernet switch market is $1 billion in revenue.

This morning Cisco announced the intention to purchase privately held Cloupia for approximately $125 million in cash, adding to its long list of cloud-related acquisitions.

For those who don’t know Cloupia, the company sells management software to orchestrate and manage cloud (physical and virtual) infrastructure through a single pane of glass. Cloud is driving the need for converged infrastructure and the vendor industry has responded nicely with Cisco, EMC, Network Appliance, Dell, HP and others having participated in building converged infrastructure. However, managing converged infrastructure is significantly different than managing legacy infrastructure. The CAs and HPs of the world do a great job of managing static, physical infrastructure, but a gap exists with virtual and even a bigger gaps exists in managing physical and virtual in a single plane of glass. This is the gap that Cloupia is trying to fill with its products.

The main issue I have is that management and provisioning should be a bigger part of the evaluation criteria.

The Magic Quadrant (MQ) from Gartner has become a staple in our industry. Placement in it seems to legitimize the position of many vendors that are trying to challenge an incumbent, while not being represented in it seems to carry some sort of negative association. The MQ has become such a big part of our industry that when one sees a quadrant chart, the eye is automatically drawn to the top-right, as that’s the place of strength. In MQ speak “top-right = good, everywhere else is a lesser place”. I’m not sure how it’s become the perceived de facto standard for IT decision-making but many other research firms have tried to create alternatives to it, and no one has been able to match the gravitas of the MQ.

Extreme Networks took advantage of the media frenzy caused by the Big Switch launch to announce an upgrade to its SDN strategy yesterday. Previously, Extreme had unveiled the behemoth of a switch, the Black Diamond X8, to be the centerpiece of its SDN and network fabric strategy. Early feedback from Extreme customers has been more than positive, as the product appears to perform as advertised in the most demanding environments.

This morning, SDN startup Big Switch unveiled its strategy to end what might be the worst job of being in stealth mode in the history of networking. I’m not sure that anyone in the networking industry wasn’t at least partially aware of what Big Switch was doing. However, there were gaps in my and others’ knowledge, so today’s announcement clarifies the strategy. It certainly lived up to the hype, which isn’t easy considering the publicity surrounding SDNs since VMware’s acquisition of Nicira.

I was half expecting a “me too” announcement from Big Switch to announce a controller and then ride on the coat tails of VMware/Nicira, but the company announcements were differentiated from the rest of the field and from what my expectations were. Here are the highlights of the announcement:

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