Extreme Networks goes deep on the cloud and subscriptions

This syndicated post originally appeared at Zeus Kerravala – SiliconANGLE.

The networking industry has been going through a major shift – the transition to the cloud.

The term “cloud” was once foreign to network managers, but an increasingly dynamic and distributed workforce accelerated by the pandemic has forced network engineers to do things differently. The cloud removes the burden of managing the network box-by-box by decoupling control from the hardware and centralizing it.

Extreme Networks Inc. jumped into the cloud several years ago when it acquired cloud networking pioneer Aerohive. Since then, it has steadily transitioned its products to be cloud-first, and the company has seen some strong results. In its fiscal second quarter reported Jan. 31, the company announced year-over-year subscription revenue growth of 37.4%. Given the strong momentum, Extreme is doubling down on that approach with new cloud-managed managed offerings.

On an earlier pre-briefing with Andrew Leong, Extreme’s head of product marketing, told me that, with the remarkable growth it has seen, it’s going all-in on subscriptions. “Every product we introduce from a hardware appliance standpoint will come with a subscription license bundle,” he said. Leong also said the company is expanding on its 5000 line of universal switches, aimed at remote campus locations.

In my last conversation with Extreme Chief Technology Officer Nabil Bukhari, he and I discussed the company’s vision of the “Infinite Enterprise,” where an employee can be anywhere in this post-pandemic world. The network must extend “infinitely” to deliver a best-in-class experience and the necessary security to protect workers. The company designed the new solutions with this vision in mind. Customers should see improved network connectivity, security, and application performance.

New access points point with integrated AI

Today, Extreme took the covers off its new AP5020. On the briefing, Leong shared the details.

“This is a Wi-Fi 7 AP, 6 Ghz capable,” he said. “It’s cloud-managed and leverages our AIOps capability with Copilot. This is an opportunity for us to migrate the installed base — whether it’s an Extreme installed base or a non-Extreme wireless install base over to 6 gigahertz, less so for folks who have already shifted to Wi-Fi 6E, but more for those still on Wi-Fi 5.”

Although Wi-Fi 6E has been available for over a year, most businesses are running Wi-Fi 5 or below. The Wi-Fi 7 upgrade is well timed with businesses upgrading the network in preparation for people returning to the office.

Highlights of the Extreme AP5020

  • Built for bandwidth-intensive, latency-sensitive applications and internet of things devices.
  • Lower TCO and complexity, with built-in dual IoT simultaneously supporting multiple IoT use cases (including sensors, electronic shelf labels, lighting or asset trackers across multiple IoT protocols) with improved performance.
  • PoE failover for mission-critical use cases like healthcare, manufacturing and education.
  • Dedicated 2×2 security sensor that can work with the company’s AirDefense to provide wireless intrusion prevention and integration with Universal ZTNA.

New cloud-managed Ethernet switches

Extreme also announced a new 4000 series of switches. The 4120 and 4220 add to the company’s “Universal Hardware” portfolio. These new switches are cloud-managed.

Leong explained the benefits. “The magic here is the power of cloud management,” he said. “So if you look at our AIOps and the ability to help customers provision these switches, we’re talking minutes instead of an hour or more using noncloud technology. It starts from onboarding the switch, stacking it, setting up the port profiles — for VoIP phones, for IoT devices and camera sensors.”

Highlights of the 4120 and 4220

  • The 4120 and 4220 extend Extreme’s Universal Switching portfolio, where customers can change the feature set to meet the needs of edge, aggregation, campus, etc., without changing the hardware. By leveraging ExtremeCloud, the 4000 Series reduces the time it takes to deploy and manage new switches and includes features such as instant stacking and instant port.
  • Optimized for the edge, the 4120 is a Layer 2 switch that comes in 24- and 48-port configurations with 1/2.5-gigabit port speeds and 90W PoE support across all ports and 200GB+ uplink capacity, making it ideal for dense environments.
  • The 4220 is also Layer 2 but is available in 8, 12, 24, and 48 port configurations and supports 1, 2.5, and 5 GB port speeds with 90W PoE and four SFP+ uplink ports.
  • The products support Extreme’s “Instant Secure Port,” which uses the ExtremeCloud Universal ZTNA for authentication and policy enforcement.

How the subscription model benefits on-prem users

While the cloud is the future direction of networking, not all companies have embraced this model. I drilled down on Leong’s comment that Extreme is moving all its hardware in the subscription direction. Where does that put companies with traditional on-premises management?

“For the customers who are using on-prem management today, they’re grandfathered in,” he told me. “However, if they want all the features and capabilities of these 4000 series switches over time — if we introduce another 5000 or 7000 switches, if they want to use and operate those new switches — they have to go cloud and go with a subscription.”

This seems like a reasonable approach: Customers can buy the new products, manage them the way they are comfortable with and then, as they want to explore AI capabilities, they can migrate to the cloud. Given the compute-intensive nature of AI, it’s unrealistic to expect any vendor to support it cost effectively with a legacy management model.

“Gen AI has a non-trivial amount of computing that has to happen,” Leong said. “On one hand, it’s an enormous effort for a vendor like us to manage that — all the compute and processing, and to manage the latency — when all that is driven from our public cloud.”

The beauty of Extreme’s approach is that customers could easily hedge their bets and use a hybrid approach.

Extreme has moved things in the right direction with this announcement. The access point and the switches will be welcome additions to companies looking to expand their IoT portfolios and dive deeper into AI in the cloud. Despite some prognosticators saying that 30% to 40% of the networking market will never move to the cloud, the cloud trend continues unabated.

Author: Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.