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Last week, I was fortunate enough to present at F5’s Agility Partner Conference. The event was held in New York’s Times Square and had about 1,000 of F5’s reseller partners, all looking to get a handle on what’s next for the fast growing vendor. One of the things I enjoy about partner events is that it gives me an opportunity to interact with many of the resellers and see if what I’m observing aligns with the trends in their business.

During my presentation, I talked a lot about the complexity of IT today and the opportunity that it creates in the area of professional services. There’s no doubt that IT is more complicated today that it was a decade or even five years ago.

Historically, IT deployed infrastructure with simplicity and performance in mind. This meant when application A was deployed; it was given its own dedicated servers, storage, ADCs, security products and network resources. This model was replicated for application B, C, D and so on.

A recent analysis of Avaya looked at every element of its business, including go-to-market, financials, product innovation and roadmap, and compared it to the current market transitions.

I recently did a project with Avaya where I interviewed all their top executives and analyzed where the company stands today in relation to the markets that Avaya plays in. The result was a comprehensive report (available at the ZK Research home page).

The report goes into depth and includes some case studies and product detail, and I thought it was worth summarizing here. The analysis looked at every element of Avaya’s business, including go-to-market, financials, product innovation and roadmap, and compared it to the current market transitions.

First, for a bit of background, part of my research methodology is to look for markets in transition. I’m a firm believer that significant market share shifts only happen when markets themselves shift. If there’s no shift, there’s no reason for customers to choose a new vendor. Once in a while the industry might see something like when HP jumped into switching and grabbed some share, but they did it by offering products at a dramatically lower cost. These situations, though, are rare.

I think it’s fair to say that almost every vendor even remotely associated with the data center has tossed its hat in the software defined network (SDN) arena over the past few years. The goal here is to obviously ride the hype wave while the topic is red hot. I think it’s also fair to say that F5 Networks is one of the dominant data center vendors today with about 50% share in the Application Delivery Controller (ADC) market. So this raises a good question – what, if any, is F5’s role in the world of SDNs? I’ve had a number of my investor clients ask me about this recently, so I thought I’d summarize my thoughts here.

Before we get into F5 specifically, we should ask another question – is there a role for an ADC in an SDN? I’ve heard some speculation that the controller could actually subsume the ADC functionality and obviate the need for one. I’ve discussed this with a number of vendors involved in SDN and I believe the likelihood of an SDN controller replacing an ADC is about as likely as Tim Tebow becoming a Pro Bowl quarterback.

There’s no company in technology that’s taken advantage of market transitions more often than Cisco. In almost every presentation that CEO John Chambers gives, he opines about how catching market transitions at the right time has been the primary vehicle for Cisco’s growth over the past few decades. In fact, one of my key research principals is that significant share gain can only be achieved during moments of market transition. For example, had Cisco tried to enter the legacy PBX market, I’m not sure they would have had any success. However, they hit the shift to VoIP at the right time and now they’re the market leader in telephony.

Catching market transitions has more to do with products, though. It’s about creating an ecosystem of support around the products. Cisco’s certification program is the best in the industry and has created an army of engineers that understand how to build networks “the Cisco way.” One of the staple certifications is the Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP), which is a stepping stone towards the highly coveted Cisco Certified Internetworking Engineer (CCIE).

We haven’t had a new entrant into the VoIP infrastructure space in quite some time. Ubiquiti Networks snuck up on the industry in the Wi-Fi space, and I certainly expect them to make some noise in the VoIP market.

The end of July brings with it Major League Baseball’s trading deadline. Teams need to decide whether they are in contention or not. If they are, they then need to decide whether to go for it, and this creates some excitement as fans like myself get to curse their favorite teams as they do stupid things like trade Jon Lester. Whether your team is on the buying or selling side, it’s an exciting time of the year.

However, the tech industry is far less interesting this time of year, as many vendors hold off on product launches for the fall. This year though, we’ve had some interesting news with Apple announcing a partnership with IBM and Microsoft lopping off 18,000 workers. Additionally, on July 30, Ubiquiti Networks announced that it was formally entering the Enterprise VoIP market.

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