Extreme Networks Puts Its Focus on the Mobile World

At the Enterprise Connect show, Extreme Networks is talking about its strategy around mobile computing and network infrastructures.

Extreme Networks in early February announced a line of mobile Ethernet backhaul routers designed to enable mobile network operators to make the transition to 4G while also continuing to see returns on their investments in 2G and 3G.

According to Extreme officials, the routers were aimed at addressing the rapid growth in the number of mobile devices in use and the mobile multimedia traffic running through networks, as well as helping the network operators improve performance and scale their networks.

It also was an illustration of Extreme's growing focus on the mobile Internet, a strategy that company executives are talking about this week at the Enterprise Connect 2011 show, in Orlando, Fla., where officials also will be showing off their mobile-networking products.

The way Oscar Rodriguez sees it, the world is going mobile, a trend that will simply increase the pressure on the IT infrastructure, in general, and on networks, in particular. That means the network will have to become more streamlined-collapsing into a single layer-and more intelligent, Rodriguez, Extreme's president and CEO, said in an interview with eWEEK.

It also means redefining what people are saying when they talk about mobility, he said.

"Mobility is not about wireless," Rodriguez said. "It's about enabling mobility. Mobility is about my expectations when I'm moving around, not just about wireless."

Consumers and business users have increasingly high expectations about what their mobile experience will be, he said. They want to be able to access the data they need from any place and on any device, they want their connections to be consistent and fast, and they want this in a secure environment.

Like rivals such as Cisco Systems and Juniper Networks, Extreme offers a host of networking products designed to help enterprises and network operators meet the shifting demand for mobile computing. Rodriguez said that, going forward, Ethernet will continue to be a key to meeting those demands.

For Extreme, a major differentiator is its modular operating system, ExtremeXOS, which is consistent across the company's networking portfolio. Among the major networking vendors, only Extreme and Juniper-with Junos-offer their own operating systems, which give their portfolios a level of consistency that other rivals lack, Rodriguez said.

Through ExtremeXOS and its open APIs, the company can offer customization, security, personalization and automation that others can't-all things that increasingly will be in demand as mobile computing continues to grow, he said.

"Hardware is the vehicle, but applications and the OS, and intelligence in the software, will be the key difference," he said.

Via ExtremeXOS, Extreme offers a better user experience through the APIs for greater network customization based on XML; security through such features as Identity Manager to ensure that proper policies and controls are in place; automation through a suite of ExtremeXOS-based tools that can dynamically manage connected devices, power usage and network security; and virtualization management through XNV, which enables the network to track virtual machines as they move around the data center and ensure that that setting moves with them.

All this will be important as data centers and networking infrastructures move through the various phases that will be associated with dealing with the new mobile world, Rodriguez said. The transition will move from the convergence of wired and wireless at the enterprise edge-which includes increased awareness of individual users and virtual machines-to adding more intelligences and control into the network to create a more seamless user experience from the network into the cloud and into 3G and 4G mobile infrastructures.

For Extreme, the thrust will be around continuing to push high-performance Ethernet into its hardware, and to increase the intelligence in its operating system. The company also will focus on specific verticals, such as campuses and cloud services, as it looks to compete with its larger rivals.

"As a smaller company, we can't be horizontal," said Rodriguez, who joined the company in August 2010. "We've been horizontal for too many years. It's why we want to focus on specific customer problems. . . . By focusing on these verticals, we will get very good at [addressing their concerns]."

The challenge for Extreme is also changing the way the industry looks at it, he said.

"We need to change the perception that Ethernet is just Ethernet, and that Extreme is just an Ethernet vendor," Rodriguez said. "We are much more than that, and Ethernet is. . .important for communications today."

While sharpening Extreme's focus on the mobile world, the CEO also is looking to make the company leaner and more efficient, including by cutting $2 million in expenses through such moves as reducing the workforce by 5 percent, or by about 35 employees. In the last fiscal quarter, Extreme saw revenues of $85.1 million, a jump of more than $5 million from the same period a year earlier.