The Network Hub


September 17, 2009  7:38 PM

Avaya as a networking vendor

Shamus McGillicuddy Shamus McGillicuddy Profile: Shamus McGillicuddy

Avaya has tried to be a networking vendor in the past (Anyone remember Cajun switches? I think you can still buy one in Thailand). The market has not been friendly to it.

And yet, with this week’s news that Avaya won the bidding war for Nortel’s enterprise division, the company is now on its way to being the owner of a significant data networking market share.

According to Gartner’s quick-take on the Avaya-Nortel deal, Avaya has committed to continue Nortel’s data portfolio as its own. I haven’t seen that corroborated anywhere else. In July I asked Todd Abbot, Avaya’s senior vice president of global field ops, about Avaya’s plans for Nortel’s switches and routers. He said the company wasn’t ready to discuss it.

Chances are that Avaya won’t be ready to discuss the future of the data portfolio for awhile, at least until the deal is closed. Then perhaps Avaya will make a go of it as a networking vendor. It’s not out of the question, given how many former Cisco executives the company has on board. But it’s also entirely possible that Avaya will eventually flip the data business to another vendor.

As Garter’s Bob Hafner et al noted in the firm’s quick-take, Avaya has a poor history with data products and Nortel’s product line needs some updating and rationalization (Although Nortel would disagree with that assessment). Gartner worries that Avaya “may not be able to spare resources for this task while it focuses on integrating and supporting the combined [Nortel-Avaya] voice portfolios.”

So Avaya’s Nortel agenda looks like this:

  • Retain an extremely rattled voice customer base.
  • Make amends with a very unhappy channel community.
  • Integrate two huge voice and unified communications product portfolios.
  • Figure out what to do with the data networking business.

Gartner is right. The first three bullets in this list look like tall tasks. The last one might sit in the to-do file on CEO Kevin Kennedy’s desk for awhile.

September 11, 2009  3:40 PM

Parts shortage forces wireless LAN vendor to delay product announcement

Shamus McGillicuddy Shamus McGillicuddy Profile: Shamus McGillicuddy

On Wednesday I reported that many wireless LAN vendors are having supply chain problems. The semiconductor manufacturers who supply key components for wireless LAN access points are struggling to deliver enough parts to WLAN vendors. The result is long backlogs of orders at some companies.

Next week a major wireless LAN vendor was planning to announce a new 802.11n access point. That announcement has now been delayed due to a parts shortage.

As is often the case in business reporting, I agreed to embargo, or hold back, the details of this product until the vendor officially makes the announcement. Because of this, I am ethically bound not to say who the vendor is or mention any details about the product. So for now, I can just say that a leading wireless LAN vendor has pushed back the announcement of a new 802.11n access point by a week. In their words, this delay is directly due to a parts shortage. The company has a policy that it won’t announce a product until it has enough component parts available to ship the  product in high volume within 45 days of an announcement. Apparently the vendor needs another week in order to get enough parts on hand to meet this policy.

If you are planning a major wireless LAN investment before the end of this year, i suggest you ask your shortlist vendors about their supply chain. It sounds like this problem is affecting quite a few vendors. Many of them have managed to deliver most of their customers’ orders, but their inventories are dwindling.  The ratification of 802.11n by the IEEE will only exacerbate this problem because conservative companies who are reluctant to adopt draft standard technology will now be moving forward with 802.11n projects.


September 3, 2009  2:27 PM

Virtualization University: Will the new green data center degree prepare you?

rivkalittle Rivka Little Profile: rivkalittle

It was only a matter of time before you could get a degree in virtualization. IBM has created a two-year associates degree in green data center management.

The program, developed in conjunction with Metropolitan Community College of Omaha, teaches skills in virtualization and server consolidation, energy efficiency, security and compliance and business issues that arise in the data center. It’s unclear whether those issues include IT in-fighting between networking, systems and storage teams.

What the program does promise is problem-solving in a real-world setting — if your real world is built on IBM hardware and software. The school’s data center lab includes IBM Power Systems servers running AIX, IBM I and Linux.

Until now, there haven’t been viable options for vendor-neutral virtualization certifications, but companies like VMware, Citrix, Microsoft and Red Hat all offer specialization courses. There are generalized data center certifications and degrees, though those are typically on the graduate level.

But at a time when the data center is diversifying in vendor offerings and equipment, it’s questionable whether students should invest their money and time in such a vendor-focused program. That said Cisco made its equipment the holy grail of networking in large part by partnering with community colleges to build network certification programs — and it’s clear CCNAs and CCIEs the world over have gotten their foot in the door and then learned diverse technologies on their feet.

What makes this degree attractive despite its vendor affiliation is its focus on virtualization as a central part of the data center. Along with the rise in virtualization has come a plethora of management issues and in-fighting about who controls virtual machines – networking, systems or storage. Forrester analyst Rob Whiteley has suggested the answer is the emergence of a new “virtualization administrator.” If that’s the case, this degree – and others like it that will soon pop up – may be the first step toward that role.

Metropolitan will offer the IBM green data center course (virtually of course) to students at other participating universities.


September 1, 2009  2:55 PM

Brocade continues to exploit friction between Cisco and systems vendors

Shamus McGillicuddy Shamus McGillicuddy Profile: Shamus McGillicuddy

It’s debatable just how much Cisco’s move into the server market with its launch of the Unified Computing System (UCS) has truly soured the networking giant’s strategic alliances with IBM and Dell, but Brocade has wasted no time in exploiting whatever separation may arise as a result.

Cisco’s UCS strategy banks on the need for tight integration between servers, storage and networks in next-generation data centers, particularly those that use a unified fabric, such as converged Ethernet, to transport all forms of data center traffic on a single medium. Cisco see an opportunity here, believing that many enterprises will want to get all their data center equipment from a single vendor in order to build such a highly-integrated infrastructure.

Of course, as part of its plan to exploit this potential market, Cisco has introduced its own line of servers, putting it into direct competition with long time allies in the data center, such as Dell, HP and IBM.

Whatever rift that forms between Cisco and these server vendors is an opportunity for Cisco’s networking competitors.

In the year since the storage networking company Brocade bought Foundry Networks, it has been leveraging its existing partnerships with leading IT equipment vendors to expand the market for its newly acquired Ethernet switching business. Apparently vendors like IBM and Dell are only too eager to find an alternative networking partner.

Earlier this year IBM announced a major expansion to its OEM relationship with Brocade. Big Blue had been selling IBM-branded storage networking gear from Brocade for several years, but in the new deal it expanded that OEM relationship to include a broad range of former Foundry switches and routers.

And now yesterday Dell announced that it is expanding its own OEM relationship with Brocade, from a storage networking channel to a broad line of Brocade’s Ethernet products.

Dell also announced it would start reselling products from IT automation vendor Scalent Systems. This is all part of an “Efficient Enterprise” offering Dell plans to unload on the market toward the end of 2009. As a result of these new OEM deals, Dell can now offer enterprises servers, storage, networks and IT automation software in one deal, enabling enterprises to buy an integrated data center solution from one vendor. IBM is making a similar move with its OEM agreements and its consulting arm. HP is moving swiftly in this direction, too, but it has the advantage of possessing its own, rapidly growing network equipment division in ProCurve.


August 21, 2009  6:20 PM

Network Access Control, switch vendor ConSentry goes out of business

Shamus McGillicuddy Shamus McGillicuddy Profile: Shamus McGillicuddy

ConSentry Networks has gone out of business, according to Network World. ConSentry was a network access control (NAC) vendor who approached the market by selling NAC and other security and control technology embedded in Ethernet LAN switches, I’ve talked to a few of ConSentry’s customers over the years, who have seemed happy with the company’s switches and NAC products, but in the end I suppose there just weren’t enough customers to sustain ConSentry in this economy.

Network World’s Tim Greene cites an interview with Mario Nemirovsky, the founder and chief scientist at ConSentry, who says that the company closed its offices yesterday and that employees were cleaning out their desks.

ConSentry’s website makes no mention of the company’s failure as of this afternoon… but who knows how long the website will remain active.

Just last month ConSentry was making a modest PR push with its concept of “LAN sprawl,” increased network complexity in enterprises that it claimed was driving the need for smarter network switches. While some enterprises are seeing the need for smarter edge switches, many other enterprises are content with dumb edge switches. In the end, I suppose there just wasn’t enough room in the market for another smart switch vendor.


August 19, 2009  7:29 PM

Arista continues to drain Cisco’s brain

Shamus McGillicuddy Shamus McGillicuddy Profile: Shamus McGillicuddy

Arista Networks, a networking start-up that sells high-end Ethernet switches for cloud computing environments, continues to hire former Cisco Systems executives.  At the top is CEO Jayshree Ullal, who joined the company last year after leaving her role as a senior vice president in charge of Cisco’s $10 billion data center, switching and services business.

On her blog today, Ullal revealed two new hires, both former Cisco executives.

Doug Gourlay has joined the company as vice president of market, just a couple months after leaving his role as Cisco’s vice president of data center marketing.

Anshul Sadana has joined Arista as the company’s vice president of customer and systems engineering. Sadana has been with Arista since 2007, but Ullal is just announcing his appointment as an engineering VP. Before he came to Arista, Sadana headed up Cisco’s development team for the Catalyst 4500 and 4900 product lines and also managed strategic customer relations.


August 18, 2009  8:43 PM

Network considerations for virtualizing your SMB

Tessa Parmenter Tessa Parmenter Profile: Tessa Parmenter

At Burton Group’s Catalyst conference 2009, Matt Lavallee of MLS Property Information Network presented a case study in enterprise virtualization on an SMB budget. Since server and storage virtualization are network problems, I thought I would speak to Lavallee himself to get his perspective on what networking professionals need to do to overcome the challenges of transitioning to a virtualized environment in a small and medium business (SMB).

After his session, LaVallee sat down with me in a video interview to speak to our SearchNetworking.com audience about virtualizing SMBs. In our Q&A, you’ll learn some of the challenges in transitioning to a virtualized environment for SMBs, then understand how network managers and engineers need to change how they view their network to accommodate a virtualized infrastructure. Are there any tools that can help? Find out in this six-minute video:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/da8kZyoTDP0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

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August 13, 2009  7:11 PM

Is Cisco killing your network? End-of-life blues

Shamus McGillicuddy Shamus McGillicuddy Profile: Shamus McGillicuddy

No, Cisco isn’t killing your network, but quite a few of its products reached end-of-sale/end-of-life status this month, as Amy Kucharik noted on our sister blog, Changing the Channel.  Some customers (and channel partners) are peeved that so many Cisco products are being retired this summer, especially in a tough economy where forklift rip-and-replace efforts carry too hefty a price tag for IT departments that have seen their budgets slashed.

As one anonymous Cisco partner told Barbara Darrow, senior news director for SearchITChannel.com, many Cisco customers will be dumping their old Cisco gear on eBay to recoup some of the cost of upgrading to new switches and routers:

Given the cost of a Cisco Catalyst switch, if I’m a gutted and hamstrung midsized business right now, thanks to the economy, and my choice is to spend $800 for an EOL’d switch in a manufacturer’s sealed box on eBay versus paying $2,200 for one from a reseller, guess what I’d do?

And there may end up being a lot of end-of-life Catalyst 6500 switches on the gray market soon. Just take a look at the Catalyst models that will be discontinued over the next few years.


August 4, 2009  2:08 PM

The future of enterprise networking is no more networks

Tessa Parmenter Tessa Parmenter Profile: Tessa Parmenter

At Burton Group’s Catalyst Conference, I chatted briefly with speaker Matt Lavallee about how the conference was going, and he asked me this question: “Have there been any surprises for you?”

In short, my answer was “yes.” But in long, if the title of this blog post is any indication, I was quite taken aback by what I heard from Burton Group senior analyst David Passmore in his first session on the “wireless everything” era.

When I spoke to Passmore last week in an interview on computer networking trends for 2009, I hadn’t quite realized that his future of networks meant the extinction of them.

In the first point of our interview Passmore stated, “Wireless is one [networking trend of ‘09] because there’s an increased use of mobile phones for both data as well as for voice. We’re also seeing enterprises using wireless LANs (WLANs) often as a substitute for wired Ethernet.” From these trends, he suggested that we would some day no longer need networks.

Consider this tongue-in-cheek dialogue between Passmore’s explanation of this at Catalyst and the audience’s reaction:

Passmore: For longer-term networking trends, we may actually see the disappearance of enterprise networks.

Audience: Blank, saucer-eyed staring

Passmore: You’re probably thinking, “How can that be?”

Audience: Those not nodding vehemently to his question are doing so internally, thinking “Yes, how can that be?”

Passmore: Well, we’re already seeing a shift from wired Ethernet access for the use of wireless LANs.

Audience: OK, but that’s still a network — hence the “n” in wireless “LAN”…

All kidding aside — what he meant was that Ethernet is very surely being replaced with wireless, which will then be replaced by 4G mobile cellular data. Does this seem probable? I think he has a valid point, but how soon will a transition like this occur? Will the network engineer have to move into wireless telecommunications in his lifetime? Who’s to say?


July 30, 2009  5:55 PM

Are wireless LANs reliable and secure enough for the healthcare industry?

Tessa Parmenter Tessa Parmenter Profile: Tessa Parmenter

Persistent, reliable and secure wireless LANs (WLANs) remain the top concern for networking professionals across all verticals. However, John Gaede, Director of Information Systems at El Centro Regional Medical Center (ECRMC), has presented a compelling case to use it in the health care industry – safely and reliably. In this Q&A video below, I speak to Gaede at Burton Group’s Catalyst conference in San Diego to address these concerns and gain insight into how next generation WLANs could contribute to healthcare reform in the United States.[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/3XlDxlAgh0s" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]


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