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Expanding Extreme eyes Cisco, HPE networking business

Having acquired Avaya’s SDN and switching business, and with its purchase of Brocade’s datacentre unit imminent, Extreme Networks is on a mission to secure customers’ hearts and minds and take business from rivals

Fast-growing networking hardware and software-defined networking (SDN) systems supplier Extreme Networks has revealed it is looking to target customers of sector giants Cisco and Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (HPE) as it wraps up a series of acquisitions, most recently of Avaya’s switching and SDN business.

After its concurrent purchase of Brocade’s datacentre networking business is finalised this autumn, Extreme Networks will become the third-largest networking supplier in the world, behind HPE and Cisco. It also bought the wireless local area network (WLAN) assets of Zebra Technologies in September 2016.

Sean Collins, Extreme’s regional director of the UK, Ireland and Benelux, told Computer Weekly: “The ambition is there to be the number one alternative to Cisco and HP with a targeted SDN vision.”

Extreme already markets SDN products and the prominence of Avaya’s own Fabric Connect SDN line, which Collins described as a “clear differentiator”, was a major factor in its purchasing decision.

ZK Research analyst and founder Zeus Kerravala said: “Avaya’s strength in the core and campus perfectly complements Extreme Networks’ market focus. Additionally, the acquisition is a positive move for Extreme Networks, Avaya and both customer bases as it creates a company with best-in-class products that span the entire enterprise network.”

But other observers have suggested that, given the scale of the integration task at hand across the three acquired businesses, challenges may lie ahead for Extreme. Speaking to SearchNetworking in March 2017, Gartner analyst Mark Hung raised questions about whether Extreme would be able to execute across three different fronts at once.

To make this task easier, Extreme has implemented a transactional services agreement to enable the Avaya business to be run by the same people and in the same way, at least to begin with.

“They will continue to run the business and provide a soft landing for customers and partners while we integrate the back-end systems,” said Collins.

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The agreement also means that Extreme will honour Avaya pricing support levels and any network service contracts signed before 14 July 2017, while the Avaya support portal will stay open for 12 months to help users avoid service disruption.

Existing Avaya warranties will also be carried across, and for customers who bought Avaya technology after the deal was closed, warranty offers will be mapped to Extreme “with the goal of providing equal or better coverage”, said Collins.

“We are continuing the roadmaps, we are not end-of-lifing any products, we are moving customers out of the uncertainty of Chapter 11 and telling them we still want their business,” he added.

Following the closure of the Avaya acquisition, Extreme has also set out a number of planned product enhancements, notably a modular, high-density SDN platform – VSP 8600 – which will drop later this month and will incorporate Avaya’s fabric technology, alongside updates to its ExtremeCloud system, and a number of switching and software announcements that the supplier said would bring “unmatched simplicity, resiliency and agility” to customer networking environments.

Read more on Software-defined networking (SDN)