Aiming high

Oscar Rodrigues, CEO of Extreme Networks, who visited the region recently, talks about why his company is a force to be reckoned with in the new era of cloud and mobility.


Is the Middle East a strategic market for you?

Very much so.  The Middle East market represents one of the fastest growing and forward looking in the world. There is always new innovation going on here.  The growth of the Middle East in general, with Emirates as the centre point, really has been amazing and this is a place where there is lot of evolution that still needs to happen in terms of efficiency of communications. You have this nexus of things happening in one place here.

Your market share in Ethernet has been around two percent consistently. How do you plan to grow now that you have realigned your sales and marketing activities?

First thing, we need to put this in context. The way Ethernet market share is measured is taking into account all things Ethernet that are sold everywhere, count them and see how much you have. It’s kind of saying what kind of market share does NASA have in all transportation including automobiles and bicycles?  It is very small, right? But they have a very big market share in a very specific area, which is getting to the moon. We have very small market share when you measure us against all levels of Ethernet but if you look at us in terms of  our share in very specific areas such as high-performance computing, mobility and cloud services we are actually not just one or two percent and that market is just getting to be measured.

In terms of data centre, we are one of the top five players, clearly separating us from some of the more common Ethernet vendors. If you look at the recent report from Gartner on data centres, we along with Brocade and Juniper, are listed as the Ethernet fabric vendors, who are network specialists. The marketplace is changing rapidly. What’s happened in the last ten years is not really an indicator of what will happen in the next ten years. As the marketplace changes, we are now taking position to be a network specialist for data centre, and cloud and mobility. Thanks to our  channel partners, we got a significant share in mobility, and we are in 19 of the 20 top mobile operators who have deployed Ethernet.


You have been in this industry for about 25 years. What do you think is going to happen over the next ten years?

I have been in communications industry for a long time, and I am really going to date myself here when I say I have worked on paging and paging systems.  I have seen a lot of changes and  in 1990 I was lucky enough to have worked  for Motorola, where we worked on wireless devices including pagers. And in 1992 I left to be part of a a first start up company where we built chassis that had Token Ring, if you remember that, Ethernet of course and FDDI. Some of these technologies were successful and some were not, but Ethernet has lasted all these years. Here I am, 22 years later, still talking about Ethernet. The technology has a basic fundamental economic advantage over other technologies, and over the next decade, Ethernet is going to continue to reinvent itself, as it has done along the way, and enable cloud services. The cloud is really going to take off because people are no longer tied to certain location and they need to be mobile and access information no matter where they are;  it’s a lot more productive if information is centralised and I think eventually  cloud service s and mobility will  work together. Mobility will get better as LTE is rolled out everywhere in the world and large amounts of broadband are made available. The next wave of people will come online, not using laptops or even tablets. They will come online with mobile phones and you got to serve private information to them quickly and in a secure manner. Over the next ten years, communications is going to shape itself in such a way where the concepts of the cloud and data centres are going to be very real. Ten years now, we wouldn’t even remember how each one of us kept our information on individual devices because cloud will be available everywhere and it will be secure.

How do you plan to take your customers from legacy data centre environments to the cloud?

The customers have to make very specific choices when they move to the cloud computing. First, they have to organise their data, which we cannot do because we are not database or applications creators. We provide the plumbing that enables all this to happen. Virtualisation is key as it enables applications to sit on any servers, once it can move from one server to another, it can also move from a private data centre to a cloud environment.  Users shouldn’t be able to see any different in application performance or service because it’s private data centre or the cloud, so it should be able to move back and forth without anyone noticing. To do that, we need policy management, which hasn’t been done well in enterprises. It is important to manage the policies because If I connect to the cloud I may have different needs than you have. What policies get applied to you are different that mine. And that capability requires an infrastructure that is designed to ease the movement of VMs, and when a VM moves from one place to another, the network should be able follow automatically.

Ethernet vendors, including you, have been talking about flattening the data centre architecture. How do you plan to go about it?

Flattening the network requires lot of density, and we were the first vendor to come out with the  largest switch that is available, which plugs in many 10G  ports into one box. When you have more ports, the network becomes smaller because of fewer boxes. So first, it’s about flattening the number of switches you need to interconnect with each other.

There is a lot of discussion about modular DCs, that is almost like Lego blocks –  be able to have very specific sets of equipment that will run together and  could be added to data centres  to increase the scale. By having modular components of a data centre which includes networking, storage, servers and even UPS, you can grow you data centre piece by piece and you can scale it incrementally along with you revenue.

Do the new switches that have rolled out recently support your Open Fabric architecture, which is said to be the key to flattening networks?

Yes these switches support Open Fabric, which is designed to be an architecture that it doesn’t matter who you connect with or what other piece of equipment you connect with, you can openly interoperate. We support TRILL and lot of different types of protocols, and Extreme stands for open standards and we believe strongly in software defined networks.

You have chosen M-LAG (Multi-System Link Aggregation) as opposed to the traditional spanning tree architecture. Is there any reason why?

M-LAG is really a standard version multi-link trunking, which Nortel introduced at stock exchange networks. So anytime you have a network that shouldn’t go down and self-heal , that’s where multi-link trunking was introduced. Now we are making that available to all cloud operator no matter who they are.

Very often, people don’t really talk about network when they talk about the cloud. Isn’t network the basic building block?

It’s very interesting, when u talk about a building you seldom talk about plumbing and I think it’s the same thing. I think they want the network to be small, quiet and out of the way because in  a data centre where you do all the work  is really about  servers and storage, because that’s where the money is made if you are  a cloud operator in terms of VM access, storage, etc. If the network is big and intrusive, you have less room for servers and storage. So what we really are working on is to make networks that are quiet and automated so that you don’t need many people to run it.

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