Archive for September 2013

On September 25th, Brocade held its annual “Tech Day” conference. This yearly event is normally a pretty geeky show where the company talks about things like Ethernet Fabrics, software defined networks (SDNs), and other exciting topics like the transition from 16 Gig to 32 Gig FibreChannel. This year’s conference included its fair share of geek talk, but new CEO Lloyd Carney did take the time to give an update to the business and talk about the market at a high level.

There were several underlying themes to Mr. Carney’s keynote, but the main, high-level theme was focusing the company. Historically, Brocade has played in many markets across both the enterprise and service provider landscapes, particularly with its IP portfolio. Moving forward, the company will channel its resources almost exclusively into building products that can accelerate the transformation of the data center.

For many reasons, I think this is the right decision for the company. First, the data center is where the action is. Last month, I got the results back from a joint ZK Research/Tech Target Network Purchase Intention Study that indicated that the momentum we saw in the data center last year would continue into this year. Data center and wireless LAN were, by far, the two highest-rated networking initiatives for the upcoming year. Virtualization, SDNs and cloud computing have forever changed the data center network, and it’s this change that gives Brocade a shot at taking some share. One the principles by which I conduct my research is that significant share shift only occurs at points of market transition, and the data center is going through more transition today than it has in decades.

The support model for IT needs to change from the non-scalable model in place today.

The consumerization of the enterprise has been the hottest trend in IT over the past few years. The focus of most organizations’ “consumerization” strategy has been to make on-boarding devices easier and allow workers to use them in the workplace. This is one of the reasons why the terms “BYOD” and “consumerization” are being used synonymously today, which I think is incorrect.

In my mind, BYOD is related to devices and allowing them to be used as a company endpoint. Consumerization, though, is about transforming the workplace to be more consumer-like. The device is part of this transition but certainly not all of it. One of the issues that I’ve discussed with many organizations is that the support model for IT needs to change from the non-scalable model in place today.

Historically, IT was responsible for knowing everything about every piece of technology in the workplace. If a user had a problem with anything, they called the help desk. This put an overwhelmingly large burden on most help desks, most of which couldn’t keep up with the growing demands on corporate IT. As a person that used to run a help desk, I heard all the jokes about the help desk–the “no help desk”, “need help desk”, “helpless desk”, the jokes go on and on.

Citrix debuts a UC client application to add to its collaboration play.

Yesterday morning at the Citrix Industry Analyst conference, Citrix highlighted a cloud based unified communications (UC) product with the code name of “Project Zeus”. For those that want to check it out, the link is:

So, what is Zeus you may ask? Well, in addition to being a fantastic industry analyst that lives in Massachusetts with his smoking-hot wife, Christine, it’s also Citrix’s UC application.

Despite the numerous advancements in Unified Communications (UC) over the past few years, managing UC remains a challenge for many organizations, particularly large enterprises and service providers. Deployments in these environments can be quite complex, as the number of systems and interdependencies between them can overwhelm even the best and most knowledgeable network manager.

Managing a legacy PBX used to be relatively simple since the system was a vertically integrated solution that masked the complexity from the administrator. Today’s systems are comprised of physical servers, virtual servers, desktops, laptops, IP phones, software-based clients that can run on wired, cellular or Wi-Fi networks and now expand out to the cloud. Because of this diversity, no two UC environments are the same, so building an all-encompassing UC management tool can be just as or more complex as the environment itself. A general rule of thumb I like to use is that solutions to problems should never be more complicated than the original problem – and that’s part of what the UC industry has faced.

It seems we can’t go more than a couple of weeks without someone making another product announcement related to software defined networks (SDNs). A couple of weeks ago, VMware announced its NSX network virtualization platform at its user conference, VMworld. Along with the platform, VMware highlighted a number of NSX partners, one of which was Juniper Networks.

This week, Juniper took the covers off it’s own SDN controller by announcing the general availability of its Contrail controller. While Juniper’s vision matches that of VMware’s software defined data center, the approach from Juniper is markedly different than that of VMware. In addition to being a direct competitor to NSX, the Contrail controller is a completely standards-based controller that uses OpenStack as the orchestration protocol, whereas NSX is more of a proprietary platform meant for VMware-only environments.

Custom network hardware may appeal to the Web giants, but for the rest of the world, staying with the tried and true is a safer, smarter choice.

Just after VMworld, NoJitter editor and all around smart guy, Eric Krapf, sent me this link to a Wall St Journal article article that talks about the efforts of both Facebook and Google to build their own network infrastructure and obviate the need for traditional vendors such as Intel and Cisco. Eric may have his flaws as a Chicago sports fan, particularly given the dominance of all Boston teams over the past decade, but he recognizes interesting topics to blog about.

The theme of this article has been the source of much confusion and misunderstanding since SDNs became the biggest tech buzz word since “cloud”. The thesis is that organizations are now able to deploy a commodity network layer and then create their own software layer for all of the functions they used to pay companies like Cisco, Brocade and Extreme for. Or, at the extreme (pardon the pun), some companies could just build their own switches from scratch. This trend would be the end of networking as we know it. Network infrastructure would be commoditized and the valuation of companies like Cisco would be lower than the combined win total of the Cubs and White Sox.

This morning, Extreme Networks announced it has entered into an agreement to acquire Enterasys Networks for $180 million in cash. Extreme is funding the purchase by pulling $105 million from its $205 million of cash on hand and then borrowing $75 million from a new credit line established. Extreme will buy Enterasys from the Gore Group, which acquired the company back in 2006 for $386 million. Around the same time, Gore had acquired Siemens Enterprise with the idea of creating an organization that could deliver an “end-to-end” UC-data solution.

The concept was sound, but in practicality, the UC solutions from Siemens Enterprise are widely deployed on Cisco networks. Considering the challenges Siemens Enterprise has encountered while rebuilding its portfolio over the past five years or so, creating any kind of resistance in its customer base is the last thing the company needed. So, instead of pushing a combined Siemens Enterprise/Enterasys solution, the sales force gave customers what they wanted, which was Cisco most of the time.

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