Craft Equilibrium of ‘Wired and Wireless’ Infra: Matt Walterhausen, Extreme Networks

We are a solutions-led company with strengths in software and services as well as sufficing the explosive growth of Wi-Fi based consumption, says Matt Walterhausen, VP APAC, Extreme Networks.

In today’s complex app-centric world the organizations strive to keep their networks - agile, simple and cost-effective. And they thread the dual path of wired and wireless infrastructure to suffice the customer demands that spreads across mobile devices. “Wired technologies are gradually becoming an enabler of solutions –centric selling whether leading with wireless or our analytics / big data capabilities through intelligent monitoring solutions,” says Matt Walterhausen, VP APAC, Extreme Networks.

How has Extreme Networks changed its vision over the years to evolve as a new-age technology vendor?

The company’s original heritage was much focused on providing enterprise based and to certain elements of carrier grade switching in the industry. But the strategy has evolved since couple of years. The acquisition of Enterasys brings along extensive portfolio of enterprise class Wi-Fi. We are evolving as solutions - based company with strengths in software and services as well as sufficing the explosive growth of Wi-Fi based consumption. And we continue to feed the underlying capability required for enterprise grade switching and routing etcetera. We are lifting our game to emerge as a stronger enterprise player.

APAC and of course India are great focus as we continue to increase investments into this region. Our FY15 performance was very strong in APAC and we stay optimistic on FY16 to develop a platform for increased acceleration across these markets.

Extreme Networks had a great year in APAC but the company registered a bleak Q3 of Fiscal 2015.

There were few factors in Q3 (ended March 31, 2015) that impacted us – not from APAC context but US perspective. Because of some decisions around certain parts of US market. There were delays in spending etcetera particularly around education market and other areas. But those restrictions relaxed and we picked the delayed Q3 business and also incremental business in couple of segments in US.

Q4 was a very strong quarter for us as we made up the ground not only for Q3 but beat the market expectations for Q4 of 2015 and the full year.

What is the next wave of Wi-Fi because wired networks comparatively deliver more latency, resiliency and reliability to the infrastructure? 

Wi-Fi will always require a strong ground in terms of wired based networking. Some telco operators even in India often struggle to fulfill the customer demand from carrier class of 3G or 4G and importantly Wi-Fi context as well. Their wired infrastructure needs modernization to fill the gap. From enterprise and government context both on macro scale and side-based scale, a strong grounding -- with increasing capacity and capability -- on a wired base to support the wireless will always be needed. On wired basis, Power over Ethernet (PoE) is a focused area for Extreme networks and other vendors exploring PoE and wireless as well.

Wireless is absolutely coming off age. Increasing innovation and development – quite a bit spearheaded by us – will accelerate the transition. Enhanced performance with newer standards -- from ac to ab as an example -- is part of this wireless evolution. There will be more dependence for smart interaction with IoT that will rely on wireless in future.  

Any change in the priority list for CIOs in APAC and India from networking vendors like you?

The role of CIOs is moving from IT leaders to intelligence driven business leaders for the seat at the table with C-level executives.  They are working strongly with line of business for their needs as the budgets increasingly shift from CIO to LOBs. The LOBs focus on stronger elements and KPIs to be driven as part of application capability and servicing their internal and external customers, partners etcetera.

CIO role has increased for defining the scope of work and nature of services to be offered. Network vendors that have not evolved from ‘product-based feature’ discussion won’t be able to or haven’t been able to benefit from the sea change in the marketplace.

There will always be technology discussion with lower levels within specific functions of IT team and network teams. And with the application teams for best integration, network management and other issues.In terms of driving larger engagements with the customers, the vendor pitch is definitely shifting to business-centric used cases. That’s why we are ramping our investments around analytics and the ability to automate particular activities to allow our customers to respond more readily.

The competition landscape has changed course with Cisco exploring UCS, Avaya buoyant on video to name a few. Do enterprises look at Extreme Networks beyond ‘switches and routers’ vendor?

Absolutely. We have been driving our high profile business in India and other fast growing regions in APAC and on global basis. We are leading with wireless that’s the forefront of the sales on basis of consumer demand across enterprises and government. Wired technologies are gradually becoming an enabler of solutions -led selling whether leading with wireless or our analytics / big data capabilities through intelligent monitoring solutions. And smart app integration into the services for video voice, applications and prioritizations across quality of services, applications and workloads.

Another differentiator is the integration of our solutions with video voice providers - not only with Avaya, Cisco etcetera – but our strong alliance with Microsoft. That’s an evolving challenge and a huge risk to vendors like Cisco and Avaya as they are beginning to see some accounts erode away. We have deep API integration with Microsoft around Skype for business, Office 365 that feeds the information of video voice interaction to prioritize traffic and enable proper service quality and user experience. It gives us a strong edge because vendors focusing on CC and UC face the challenge to extract and deliver that great experience around video quality and voice quality.

Video conferencing (including room based ones) has not picked up in markets like India. Will mobile and tablets act as a catalyst?

In some mature infrastructure based economies, the adoption of video interaction and voice over data has accelerated to a great extent. Korea, Singapore and pockets of SE Asia like Hong Kong are leveraging the benefits of video conferencing. It’s been an increasing factor in the work place and in terms of consumer based service.

Video Conferencing is becoming simpler and much more pervasive from a technology standpoint. Both in terms of in-built services across Apple platforms and similarly across Android platform. Microsoft has enhanced their capability with much better mutli-presence management across each platform. Hence the adoption curve enabling that interaction has improved to the point that once the network is improved to catch up, the desired yield exists. Those economies are moving many interactions to video based - outside and inside the companies- for greater productivity and good savings.

Is SDN a farfetched overhype because most companies in India are yet to go virtualized or cloud ready?

Virtualization is a vast area and needs a long term strategy for the organizations. SDN is just network virtualization and does hold promise in terms of what it offers. The reality is that most Indian enterprises have started the virtualization path to some degree or other. Initially virtualizing the servers, then into storage virtualization and being able to run applications across that virtualized infrastructure right to the file level.

Extreme Networks has been at the forefront in terms of design around not only network virtualization with SDN but analytics and monitoring capabilities to provide automation for smart decisions and integration with applications, video voice solutions in the marketplace.

Yogesh Gupta is executive editor at IDG Media. You can reach him at yogesh_gupta@idgindia.com or follow him at @yogsyogi1