An industry analyst reports on Extreme’s annual show, where it showcased innovations around AI and extending platforms.
Extreme has been on an interesting, multi-year journey as the company has grown through aggressive acquisitions. Much of its research and development efforts have focused on bringing the portfolios of core Extreme together with the businesses it has purchased, such as Avaya Networking, Brocade Data Center, Motorola Wi-Fi and Aerohive.
Now that much of the “heavy lifting” of portfolio interoperability and rationalization has been done, Extreme can turn its attention to driving features that create a step function in value for its customers.
Extreme Debuts Digital Twin Capabilities
While most vendors have some level of AI capabilities, Extreme is the first provider of network equipment to introduce the concept of a digital twin. The technology enables businesses to create a digital model of the environment to make better informed decisions.
For example, a manufacturer can use it to better optimize a shop floor to improve performance. The use of digital twins has been strong in several industries, such as manufacturing, healthcare and retail.
Extreme’s digital twin creates a virtual replica of the network, enabling customers to stage and validate configurations of network infrastructure, such as switches and access points, prior to being deployed. Typically, when network infrastructure is installed, there can be weeks or even months of tweaking and tuning to optimize performance. Network engineers can use the digital twin to do the post deployment chases prior to rolling out the physical equipment.
Explainable AI / ML Builds Trust and Confidence
Extreme also introduced something it’s calling “Explainable AI/ML” to its AIOps engine. The infusion of AI has been something all network vendors have added over the past couple of years, but network engineers often struggle with turning the insights driven by AI into actionable tasks.
Another challenge network pros face with AI is that the engine makes recommendations, yet how they were derived is a “black box,” so it’s tough to know whether the machine learning suggestions are correct.
Extreme’s feature provides readable outputs of how the insights were derived, enabling engineers to automate operations with confidence that the recommendations are the right ones. This helps build trust, which ultimately leads to a reduction in mean time to resolution. Problems can be handled proactively before they impact the business.
SD-WAN Managed in ExtremeCloud
Late last year, Extreme acquired SD-WAN provider Ipanema from Infovista. This was another in a long line of acquisitions where Extreme managed to add good technology to its portfolio.
Ipanema has always had advanced technology, in fact, Infovista had recently rebuilt the product to be cloud native but didn’t have the sales force to sell it, as it was a bit of a square peg in a round hole at the company. The addition of Ipanema completes the “end-to-end” network puzzle for Extreme. The company has data center and campus networking, a broad wireless portfolio and now a WAN component.
The news at the shows is that Ipanema has now been integrated into Extreme’s management platform, enabling customers to manage the entire network from a single pane of glass. Also, via partnership with Checkpoint, Extreme now offers a range of security capabilities, including cloud security and edge firewalls.
Extending Universal Platforms
That Extreme’s portfolio was built through acquisitions gives the company multiple platforms. This could create a potentially confusing scenario for customers that have one platform but want to move to another – it would typically require a “rip and replace” of infrastructure.
Extreme has a unique product line called Universal Hardware in which a customer can deploy a switch but boot it up with multiple operating systems. This gives customers the ability to run the code base they want today along with the choice to migrate without needing to change platforms.
At the show, Extreme announced the 5270 Universal Switch, which adds to its existing portfolio. The new product sets a new high-end benchmark for this family of products. The switch has 48 multi-gig ports, built in redundancy, and can be managed locally or using ExtremeCloud IQ.
Just a few years ago, Extreme Networks was considered by many industry watchers to be on a fast track to irrelevance. The company then went on a shopping spree and gobbled up excellent assets, but many raised an eyebrow about this strategy because integrating multiple products simultaneously can be difficult.
The company has certainly had its ups and downs while it has gone through the process but seems to have righted the ship and has now had seven consecutive quarters of double digit, year-over-year EPS growth and five consecutive quarters of greater than 20% operating income growth.
Extreme has grown steadily and now is over $1B in run rate, and is a leader in Gartner’s wired and wireless LAN Magic Quadrant. Now that much of the blocking and tackling has been taken care of, the company can shift the focus to accelerating innovation for differentiation, such as the digital twin capability.
Looking ahead, customers should expect to see more from the company in terms of AI, analytics and other features that make IT easier while improving the user experience.