Ethernet equipment

Extreme vs. Arista

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. (Nasdaq: EXTR) 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

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 4:49:02 PM
re: Extreme vs. Arista

Good point Raid, although the "some market spaces" qualifier really is key when talking about the core.  But yes, it does seem like Broadcom is becoming the fuel of the networking industry.

Wonder how vendors feel about that. Their development times would be shorter, but their dependence on Broadcom is growing as Broadcom acquires its way into more markets, and it seems like that could become uncomfortable.

raid 12/5/2012 | 4:49:02 PM
re: Extreme vs. Arista

This is indeed a great showcase for the scalability that Broadcom provides.

Both Arista and Extreme use merchant silicon, primarily from Broadcom.  

Extreme today and Arista can soon come out with similar product based on exactly the same silicon at pretty much the density & latency.

I am less worried for Arista -they are lean and nimble. More concerned for Cisco, Alcatel & Juniper data center groups. Why can't they match these numbers with their much touted custom silicon for even the chassis products?

Broadcom is becoming the new Intel for networking, and does look like its merchant ASICs are beating the pants off the system vendors in some market spaces. That's perhaps the real story!







upand2theright 12/5/2012 | 4:48:53 PM
re: Extreme vs. Arista

With apologies to your Broadcom poster, network software is going to have a larger role, shaping the future of cloud networks.  Not merchant silicon.  Extreme jumped ahead of Arista and other companies because it saw this software future.  A future of Open Fabrics, Open Flow and software-defined networks.  Two years ago, it helped create a network hypervisor, which is big reason VMware runs its business on Extreme.   It also was the first to ship 40 GbE ports for the data center.  #2 in market behind IBM.   

stuartb 12/5/2012 | 4:48:40 PM
re: Extreme vs. Arista

Apologies to the Broadcom and the Extreme posters, who are both correct in their assesments btw (e.g. merchant silicon is beginning to dominate, which is increasing the importance of s/w as a differentiator industry-wide), the real story here Craig is Extreme's abandonment of the service provider space in favor of the shiny object otherwise know as the data center market.

I would think that this is what the readers of Light Reading want to understand. Extreme had a proud history of metro Ethernet innovation, including V-MAN (Q in Q, which helped paved the way to connection oriented Ethernet) that they are walking away from.

In their quest to increase valuation for shareholders, Extreme is abandoning their customers. 

upand2theright 12/5/2012 | 4:48:24 PM
re: Extreme vs. Arista

Extreme continues to sell its core and edge switches into the mobile operator market.  Extreme did exit the metro E business to focus on mobile datacenters and mobile cloud networks.  Today, Extreme switches help run 19 of the 20 largest mobile operators worldwide.  Overall, Extreme switches are used by more 160 mobile operators worldwide.

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 4:48:23 PM
re: Extreme vs. Arista

Thanks for the clarification about Extreme, upand2.

I also wonder about Ridgeline (the old Soapstone stuff) -- is that de-emphasized as well? There was some promising technology in there, but maybe this is one of those cases where it's up to later-arriving players to fulfill that promise. (Cyan, maybe?)

Phil Morrison 12/5/2012 | 4:48:20 PM
re: Extreme vs. Arista

You aren't worried about Arista and yet you worry about Alcatel and Juniper.  Interesting.  From what I can see Alcatel and Juniper both have relatively good offers for data center switching.   In fact Alcatel won Best of show at Interop Vegas for the Data Center and Storage category with their new DC Mesh architecture.

Quite frankly I'd be more concerned about Arista given their current go to market approach.  



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