Dell Gets Networking Win With Medallia Deal

The SaaS company embraces Dell's Open Networking initiative with switches running Cumulus' OS.

Dell networking

Dell officials say the company is seeing growing momentum behind its Open Networking initiative, a key part of the tech vendor's larger ambitions to be a top-tier enterprise IT solutions and services provider.

The company over the past several years has bought several companies—such as Force 10 Networks three years ago—in an effort to bolster its networking capabilities. In January, officials announced its Open Networking strategy, designed to create a networking portfolio based on open standards, off-the-shelf hardware, choices of operating systems, merchant silicon and new technologies such as software-defined networking (SDN) and network virtualization.

Dell officials are positioning their offerings as a more open alternative to what they say is more proprietary hardware and software solutions from established players like Cisco Systems and Juniper Networks. Dell is looking to offer a networking model that will be attractive to cloud providers and Web-based enterprises, including hardware that runs on standard processors and an open OS.

The company since then has announced several partnerships designed to push this open vision. Dell earlier this year announced a partnership with Cumulus Networks in which the companies will sell Dell networking gear running Cumulus' Linux-based network operating system. In April, Dell made a similar announcement with SDN vendor Big Switch Networks, enabling the company's Switch Light OS to run on Dell networking hardware and offering Big Switch's SDN controller applications.

In August, Dell announced that, in partnership with Cumulus, it had begun offering VMware's NSX network virtualization technology on its switches, and that it also was using NSX in a converged infrastructure offering for small and midsize companies.

The result is a networking portfolio that includes Dell hardware running on merchant silicon that offers a choice of three operating systems and a number of orchestration and automation tools, according to Tom Burns, vice president and general manager of Dell's Networking and Enterprise Infrastructure group. Dell is offering solutions that disaggregate the hardware and software, enabling businesses to choose the best technologies for their environments, Burns told eWEEK.

"With SDN, Dell is one of the companies that really look at SDN to give customers choice and give them paths to where they want to go in the data center," he said.

Dell got a big win Oct. 8, when it announced that Medallia—a software-as-a-service (SaaS) company whose technology enables customers to grab customer feedback from the Web, social sites, mobile environments and contact centers and then analyze it—is the first customer to use the vendor's Open Networking gear running Cumulus' OS. Medallia already used Dell's PowerEdge servers, but was looking to deploy a more open and responsive networking infrastructure.

"We chose Dell Networking over white-box vendors because Dell offers unparalleled support and top-notch engineering at an extremely competitive price point," Karl Armani, head of infrastructure and operations at Medallia, said in a statement.

Burns also said Dell is seeing other companies, including carriers, run trials of the Open Networking solutions. Much of the interest to date has come from such market segments as cloud and Web companies, communications, carriers and high-end financial firms, he said. However, smaller companies are showing interest as well.