SDN Technology

New Plexxi Chief Makes His Mark

As he enters his third month in the big chair, new Plexxi CEO Rich Napolitano is retooling the company's messaging to focus more on the benefits of software networks -- using Plexxi technology, of course -- and less on the abstract benefits of SDN.

Napolitano took over as CEO in November after 30 years in the technology industry, most recently at EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC), where he was president of the Unified Storage Division. (See Plexxi Taps Former EMC Exec as New CEO.)

Napolitano's vision for Plexxi is to communicate that it serves the needs of changing networks. Previously, enterprises and service providers built network infrastructure first. But now, networks need to be flexible to meet the needs of new applications: web-facing, mobile, big data, and hybrid clouds. Application needs come first. That requires software networks, which is where Plexxi comes in, Napolitano says.

"Requirements have shifted a lot and networking hasn't changed much architecturally in 20-something years," Napolitano says.

Plexxi provides both SDN software and switch hardware. Customers include storage information management company Iron Mountain Inc. (NYSE: IRM) and other enterprises, colocation companies, and OTT and managed service providers for backup, cloud and disaster recovery.

Plexxi claims to provide a 90% reduction in cabling and 30% reduction in boxes compared with a traditional leaf-and-spine architecture, such as Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Arista Networks Inc. , leading to reduced TCO, capex and improved ease-of-use, Napolitano says.

'Pointless debate into the echo chambers'
To drive growth, messaging needed to change, Napolitano says. "The message was too much focused on how we did what we did, and not enough focusd on what we did. We need to get into focused revenue mode -- to get away from appealng to the blogosphere and appeal to the customers, so the masses get it," he says.

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Mat Matthews, co-founder, VP product management, says, "We've fundamentally changed the marketing strategy. In the old days we tried to convince the world that what we were doing was SDN and what everybody else was dong wasn't. It was a pointless debate into the echo chambers of SDN."

It's too soon to say whether Plexxi is a strong contender in the marketplace, says IDC analyst Brad Casemore. "Given that the market is still nascent, at least in the enterprise, I'm reluctant to apply terms like 'strong' and 'weak' to any venture-funded startup."

Casemore adds, "Plexxi has some compelling technology, but it has yet to make appreciable commercial gains in the market."

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Mitch Wagner 1/14/2015 | 11:59:37 AM
Smart vendors Smart vendors are going to follow Napolitano's lead -- less theoretical discussion about the merits of SDN, and what is and isn't true SDN, and more discussion about how software networking can solve network operators' business and technology problems.