“The dominant competitor we’re going after across all our products is Cisco,” said Kiren Sekar, vice president of marketing at Meraki.
Originally a pure WLAN player
Meraki first offered a unique solution: A wireless LAN that required only access points, but no central controller appliance. Instead, the access points would go to a Meraki cloud for control and management. Meraki’s cloud interface offers administrators configuration management, automated firmware upgrades, and global visibility into the managed devices.
The vendor has done pretty well in a booming wireless LAN market, listing Burger King, Applebee’s, and the University of Virgina as customers. Meraki’s approach offers low-cost network operations, since its cloud-based management interface is aimed at serving general IT administrators rather than experienced network engineers.
Now routers and access switches
Last year Meraki introduced a small line of branch router-firewalls, its MX series. Like it’s wireless line, the Meraki MX routers are managed through the cloud. Again, the cloud approach offers global views of ports across multiple sites, configuration management, alerting and diagnostics, and automated firmware upgrades. The firewall functionality also included application layer inspection, a key feature of next-generation firewalls.
This month, Meraki expanded its portfolio even further, adding MX boxes capable of connecting enterprise campuses and data centers. The routers feature two-click, site-to-site VPN capabilities and WAN optimization features such as HTTP, FTP and TCP acceleration, caching, deduplication and compression.
Also, Meraki launched a new MS series of Layer 2/3 access switches, including 24-port Gigabit Ethernet model and a 48-port 1/10 Gigabit Ethernet model, with or without Power over Ethernet (PoE). Again, these MS switches are managed through the Meraki cloud. The switches are obviously designed to compete head-to-head with the Catalyst 3750 series of switches from Cisco. These MS switches start at a list price of $1,199 for the 24-port, non-PoE switch. Combine that with ongoing licensing for the cloud-management support, and the total cost of ownership on the basic switch is about $1,400 over three years.
If a low cost of ownership value proposition on switching and routing (and WLAN) is important to you, Meraki can make a compelling case. However, the low-TCO sales pitch is starting to wear thin according to a lot of the experts I talk to. Networks are getting more complex, not simpler. Low-cost doesn’t ring bells in every IT department.
That’s why Meraki offers home-grown, advanced network services for no additional cost on its boxes. The MX router-firewalls come with WAN optimization features bundled in. Other vendors would require a license upgrade (or a separate appliance). They feature application-aware inspection and policy enforcement, something that usually requires a separate vendor. I can’t vouch for how these Meraki features compare to the WAN optimization capabilities of Riverbed Technology or the next-generation firewall capabilities of Palo Alto Networks and Check Point Software. But Meraki isn’t interested in competing with Riverbed, Palo Alto or Check Point. It’s going after Cisco.
“We view WAN acceleration as a way to differentiate ourselves from Cisco as opposed to a way to compete with Riverbed,” Meraki’s Sekar said. “For every company that has Riverbed, there are 10 who don’t, because they can’t absorb the cost or the complexity. But everyone needs a firewall.”
Is a low-cost, easily managed networking vendor something you’re looking for? Or do you still prefer to go for the higher-end products from your established vendors? Let us know.]]>
Juniper’s switching revenue dropped by 23% and ports shipped dropped by 15% on a quarter-by-quarter basis from 4Q10 to 1Q11, according to networking market analysis firm dell’Oro. However, dell’Oro director Alan Weckel pointed out that sales were still up on a year over year basis (up 22% in revenue from 1Q10 and 51% in ports shipped). Also, the industry revenue as a whole sank by 12% in that same span of time.
Juniper competitors will point to the numbers and say juniper sank further to everyone else. Weckel says the numbers are not reflective of Juniper’s technology but of market timing and a challenge with sales execution.
“On the modular side they started shipping new 40-port line cars for the EX8200 in Q410,” Weckel said. “There was a lot of pent up demand for those line cards, and that bolstered the Q4 number and weakened the Q1 number.”
Weckel said Juniper’s QFabric announcement also caused a lot of uncertainty toward the end of last quarter, which affected sales a bit as customers tried to figure out how the EX line and the QFabric line would coexist.
Weckel said Juniper’s biggest challenge is growing off the current base of customers for its $100 million switching business. “To do that, you need to repeat $5 million deals on a regular basis. That’s fairly challenging,” he said.
Juniper’s biggest challenge right now is hiring enough sales engineers to keep its market momentum going, he said. “Their technology from a competitive landscape perspective is really quite good,” Weckel said. “It’s really more about execution. Their track record to get to $100 million was fairly impressive, so having a quarter breather, especially around QFabric, is not something to get too worried about. I’ll be looking closely at it to make sure it corrects in the next two quarters.”]]>
Here’s a video where a couple of guys from Solarwinds showing how the product works.
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/6E8D04zj45Q" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
Basically, this tool works like a configuration wizard. You enter the parameters you want for the configuration of a class of switches, routers, etc. The tool takes this information and outputs a configuration template in Command Line Interface (CLI) code, which you can then cut and paste into the CLI consoles on any of your network devices.
It doesn’t scale that well. If you want to configure 100 switches, you have to cut and paste the CLI it into each one. But if you have some sort of network configuration management tool, you can probably drop these templates into that. Solarwinds, of course, is suggesting you use its Orion Network Configuration Management tool to apply these templates across your network.
Also, if you go to Solarwinds’ online community for customers, Thwack.com, you’ll find that Solarwinds customers are sharing their own configuration templates generated by Network Config Generator. You’re free to grab them and tweak them as you like with this free tool.]]>
Now Extreme has hit the restructuring button has it tries to sail through continued rough waters. CEO Mark Canepa, who’s been with Extreme since August 2006, has resigned. in order to “pursue other opportunities.” He’ll stay on board for a short time to help with the transition.
CFO Bob L. Corey has been named acting CEO as the company looks for a permanent replacement.
Extreme also laid off 70 people, about 9 percent of its workforce, in order to reduce quarterly operating expenses by $2.5 million. This is part of an effort to make the company lean enough to break even with $70 million in quarterly revenue.
No details are available on where the layoffs came from within Extreme.]]>
Citing unnamed sources, The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that Brocade Communications has put itself up for sale. This news comes less than a year after Brocade closed on its own acquisition of Foundry Networks, a $3-billion deal which gave the Fiber Channel storage networking market leader a broad portfolio of high-performance Ethernet switches and a variety of other data center networking products. Brocade has since inked some high profile OEM agreements with companies like IBM, creating a promising sales channel for the Ethernet products.
The Journal reported that HP and Oracle were likely suitors for Brocade. Oracle seems like a strange fit, but HP makes sense, given that Brocade’s former Foundry switches would fill a gap in HP’s ProCurve switching portfolio. ProCurve lacks a track record in high density Ethernet switches, something Foundry specialized in. The deal would also boost its storage business and give HP a much broader overall suite of data center products.
Now Journal blogger Michael Corkery speculates that Juniper might be a buyer for Brocade, too. Known more for its service provider routing business, Juniper recently rolled out its own line of enterprise Ethernet switches, but it has $2 billion in cash. A Brocade acquisition would give Juniper a much more established switching business, plus a lucrative storage networking business with deep and successful partnerships with IBM and EMC. But Juniper’s stated switching strategy is centered around the concept of having one operating system, JUNOS, across all of its networking products. Buying Brocade would force a complete change in direction.]]>
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.]]>
In this blog post I’ll review this year’s Magic Quadrant for the LAN market, and I’ll compare it to last year’s Magic Quadrant for Campus LAN infrastructure, which is essentially a measure of the same market.
As I wrote above, Cisco is THE leader in the LAN market, scoring high in both of Gartner’s criteria for the quadrant: completeness of vision and ability to execute. In their assessment of Cisco”s position, analysts Mark Fabbi and Tim Zimmerrman noted that Cisco maintains the broadest portfolio of LAN switching and WLAN technology on the market. The introduction of its Nexus switches have shown that Cisco is providing some leadership in addressing emerging connectivity demands in data centers.
However, Gartner cautioned that Cisco remains the high-priced vendor, with some workgroup switching products being twice as much as alternative products on the market. Gartner also said Cisco might be taking its customers for granted, especially those customers who believe in buying networking gear from more than one vendor. The analysts wrote:
We are hearing increasing concerns about Cisco’s presales organization taking customers for granted, and not providing expected levels of service, especially for customers that have not endorsed an end-to-end Cisco solution.
The only other leader in this Magic Quadrant is HP ProCurve, which was a leader last year as well. Gartner described ProCurve as the fasted growing LAN switch vendor during the past two years and when clients speak with Gartner about their shortlists for vendors, ProCurve is the the second-most-asked-about vendor after Cisco. Gartner praised ProCurve’s integration into HP’s Technology Services group, which gives it access to HP’s broader sales force. It also praised ProCurve’s low cost of ownership and the successful integration of the WLAN technology it acquired with Colubris Networks.
But Gartner cautioned that ProCurve still lacks high-end core switches (An acquisition of a high end core switching vendor like Arista Networks or Blade Network Technologies would do the trick!). The company also needs to expand its channel for larger sales opportunities. ProCurve has in the past been known as a good vendor for SMBs.
A third leader from last year’s campus LAN Magic Quadrant fell down a notch in this year’s quadrant. Foundry Networks, now known as Brocade, the storage networking company that bought Foundry last year, was classified as a visionary in this year’s Quadrant, scoring high on its completeness of vision but scoring a little lower than last year in its ability to execute.
Gartner praised Brocade’s integration of Foundry but said Foundry lost momentum last year due to its U.S.-centric and data-center-centric sales focus. Gartner said it wants to see market evidence that Brocade’s integration of Foundry is successful and that Brocade can regain market momentum. I have no doubt that last week’s announcement of a new Ethernet switching OEM agreement between IBM and Brocade will go a long way toward helping Brocade regain some of that lost momentum that Gartner is looking for.
Gartner identified three other visionaries in this year’s Quadrant: 3Com, Enterasys/Siemens and Extreme Networks.
Last year Gartner classified 3Com as a niche player, but it elevated the vendor to a visionary in this year’s Quadrant, giving it higher marks for its completeness of vision. Gartner praised 3Com’s revamped product lines and its growing market share in China and other emerging markets. H3C, 3Com’s Chinese subsidiary, has a 35% market share in China, for instance. And 3Com has a very large, low-cost R&D workforce in China. 3Com recently told me H3C has 2,300 engineers in China. But Gartner cautioned that 3Com and H3C have been, until recently, run as two separate companies. It will be important for the two to integrate. Also, 3Com has very little market penetration outside of Asia. Gartner warned that taking products developed for China and selling them globally will be a challenge.
Enterasys, which merged with Siemens Enterprise Communications last year as part of a Gores Group acquisition, maintained last year’s position as a visionary. It drew praise from Gartner for it full complement of products from the data center to the access layer, its tightly integrated security technology, and good customer buzz around support and services. But Gartner said Enterasys’s market footprint remains small and its distribution channel is limited. Marketing has also been weak, Gartner said, as the market waits for the new combined company Enterasys/Siemens to change its name.
Extreme Networks, the third visionary in the Quadrant, drew praise for broadening its XOS-based switch line and its policy-based configuration and open architecture. But Gartner noted that Extreme is struggling to maintain revenue and it remains one of the smallest vendors in the market. Gartner also cited some support issues affecting the company’s install base.
Gartner identified two niche players in this year’s Magic Quadrant. First there is Nortel, which was downgraded from its visionary status in last year’s Quadrant. Gartner cited Nortel’s bankruptcy as an impediment to the company competing for new business. Gartner is predicting significant loss of market share and revenue for the company as it remains in bankruptcy. Gartner also said Nortel needs a new core switching platform.
The second visionary, Alcatel-Lucent, drew praise for a solid product strategy and its growing market share and revenue; however, Gartner said the company needs to invest more in R&D to keep pace with the latest innovations in data center switching and wireless LAN technology.
Force10 Networks, which was identified as a niche player last year, was dropped altogether from this year’s Magic Quadrant because it no longer meets Gartner’s revenue requirements for inclusion, whch is 1% of ports sold overall or 5% of ports sold in a specific market segment.
Gartner also noted that Juniper Networks has entered the Ethernet switch market, but it hasn’t earned enough of a revenue share to be included in this year’s Magic Quadrant. Juniper’s switches earned the company $56 million in 2008.
So there you have it, for what it’s worth. Cisco remains on top, but the other players in the market continue to make moves. ProCurve and 3Com are on the rise. Nortel and Force10 are in decline. Everyone else is looking to take a step forward.]]>