4:20 PM -- As the SC11 conference opens, it's Arista Networks Inc. that caught The New York Times's eye, with a Monday morning profile spotlighting the company's breed of superfast switches. But Extreme Networks Inc. might have the better story at the moment.
Extreme wants to reclaim a place in the high-end Ethernet discussion, and it needs a hook. CEO Oscar Rodriguez recently told me Extreme has always had the technological chops to succeed but faltered in its business plan and its marketing.
The marketing part is nontrivial. Extreme has to battle Arista's glamorous backstory -- the company was self-funded and has Andy Bechtolsheim as a founder -- and Cisco's furious retrenching, which seems to be working. (See Arista Grows Up, Pumps Iron and Cisco's Comeback Quarter.)
SC11 would be a good time to gain some ground. The supercomputing tradeshow has become a showcase for switch/router vendors' highest-performance, lowest-latency efforts.
Extreme is going in with some bragging rights. Lippis Enterprises recently finished a round of performance tests that ranked Extreme's BlackDiamond X8 first in performance for core cloud switches. ("3-10X faster than any core Ethernet switch in its form factor" is how Extreme's press release words it.)
"We're beating Arista in latency, by a wide margin," Rodriguez says.
Extreme has had some glowing analyst reports to brag about recently, including high marks from Gartner and Info-Tech Research Group, and a Dell'Oro listing as a top-five data-center vendor in terms of revenue and number of ports shipped.
"The best thing is that they're measuring the market from 2010, when we weren't really focused on the data center space. When they start measuring 2011 and 2012, it's going to be a different story," Rodriguez says.
But Arista -- which at least one analyst thinks is in shape to try an IPO in 2012 -- is still the media darling, and with good reason. Look at this quote from a founder, Stanford professor David Cheriton, near the end of the Times piece: "Not being venture funded was definitely a competitive advantage." It's an old story, but still a good one.
— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading