Extreme Networks just laid out their strategy moving forward for an audience of customers and partners at the Toronto stop on their Extreme NOW tour.
TORONTO – Extreme Networks is committed to the Canadian market, their products are well suited to that market, and they are selling well in it. The Canadian focus is part of the company’s momentum following the strategic shift that came with the acquisitions of the 2016 acquisition of the Motorola Wireless LAN assets from Zebra Technologies, the Avaya Networking business, and Brocade’s data centre assets. That was the high-level messaging delivered last Thursday at the Toronto stop on the Extreme NOW road show, held at a Toronto hotel in a well-attended conference whose attendees were primarily customers.
“The Extreme NOW roadshows are important to us,” Bob Gault, Extreme Networks’ Chief Revenue and Services Officer, told the gathering. “They give us an opportunity to introduce the new Extreme to everybody. They show how we are delivering innovative, better solutions, that provide more opportunity to succeed.”
Gault said that the roadshows are also designed to give partners more ammunition to recommend Extreme Networks to their customers, and give customers the ammunition to recommend Extreme to other parts of their company.
“They give us the opportunity to raise awareness of Extreme Networks,” he said. “Unlike some of our competitors, we are not spending tens of millions on marketing. This is our way of raising the awareness of Extreme, and making it easier for you to recommend Extreme.”
It was not that long ago that Extreme Networks was the number thirteen player in the networking space. The combination of the acquisition of assets from Brocade, Avaya and Zebra, plus their own organic growth, grew them to the number three position by 2017. Growth in Canada has been a part of that, reflecting the fact that the company has been making a renewed push in Canada the last three years. Extreme Networks’ history before that here was not crowned with a great deal of success. Their 2013 acquisition of Enterasys, which was stronger in Canada, beefed up their presence significantly, and Enterasys’ Canadian office became Extreme’s office. The Canadian business did not go well, however.
“We had a very big team in Canada, but the business there was declining year-over-year,” Gault told ChannelBuzz. “By early 2015, a number of new people including myself came in, and we decided basically to pull out of Canada. We left a skeleton crew, and covered Canada through partners and distribution. They were the primary face of Extreme to the customer.”
The problem with this strategy, Gault acknowledged, was that it created uncertainty among customers.
“They didn’t know if we were committed to Canada or not,” he said.
Accordingly, following Extreme’s acquisitions, which significantly increased both their customer and partner presence in Canada, the decision was made to reinvest in Canada again.
“We saw good growth in Fiscal Year 2018, and in the year to date, we have seen 40 per cent growth in Canada,” Gault said. “The legacy Avaya networking business has been the primary engine of this growth. We put more people in, with an emphasis on putting more quality people in place. That was something that we didn’t have before.” The most recent of these is Paul Semak, Toronto-based veteran of over twenty years with Cisco, most recently their VP of Sales, Central Canada, Enterprise and Commercial. Gault, who earlier came from Cisco himself, successfully persuaded Semak to come over to Extreme last December. He’s now VP of Sales and Operations, Americas International at Extreme.
Gault said that Canada has ideal market characteristics for Extreme Networks.
“It’s definitely a sweet spot for us,” he said. “It’s a market with many mobile customers, and organizations with a limited IT staff to manage and support the architecture. It’s perfect for what we sell. We were also able to retain a lot of the partners who came to Extreme with the acquisitions. If they are partnered with someone like Avaya, it generally means ‘anyone but Cisco.’ We can also provide those partners with access to the right people and a broader solution. If they were selling wireless networking before, they couldn’t make a compete end-to-end solution unless they brought in Xirrus. They can now sell more of our portfolio to do this.”
Gault told the audience that one of Extreme Networks’ differentiating elements in the enterprise networking space is the ability to combine big company solutions with a small company approach.
“We can offer you up that small company approach,” Gault said. “That can include access to the right individuals within the company. You can also help us shape where we are going as a company. That doesn’t mean that we will make all the changes you want, but we will consider them.”
“We also emphasize being 100 per cent committed to customer service,” Gault stressed. “We made acquisitions where the customer service had been outsourced [Brocade and Avaya]. We brought that all in house. We put services and sales in the same organization, so when you make a phone call it will go to a Level 2 tech. The result is that a call is resolved by the first person 94 per cent of the time.”
The feedback from the shows has fallen into three categories, Gault said.
“Keep doing what you are doing around sales and support. Show us how you are integrating the road map. And show us use cases and best cases.”
Gault outlined the three components of Extreme’s enterprise network – Agile Data Centre, Automated Campus, and Smart OmniEdge at the edge.
“We are making sure the pundits in the marketplace knew where we were going,” he said. In wireless LAN, four years ago, we were in the lower left-hand quadrant in wireless and wired LAN. Now we are a visionary.”
Gault said that Extreme had exceeded analyst expectations on the technology front.
“The analysts didn’t think we could do it – put the products together to create a solution the way the way we did,” he stated. “Within 10 months of the Wing acquisition [from Zebra] we were able to create a single-stack form factor for on-prem or for cloud. This summer, we are creating Wing 7.0, a combination of Wing and IdentiFi. It combines the features of both OS in one. We will continue to integrate more machine intelligence into our apps, and work extensively with third parties like Palo Alto Networks and Fireeye.”
Gault said that while the enterprise network has been the last piece to be virtualized, it is now well underway, and Extreme is determined to be a leader here.
“This is the new Extreme,” he told the audience. “We are talking about software. That hasn’t always been the case. Nine times out of ten now, problems will be solved by software and services, so we are transforming our field sales to take a more consultative approach. We have a long way to go but we are making progress.”
About 80 per cent of Extreme’s revenues come through channel partners.
“We have over 6000 partners globally , but they represent the 80-20 rule, where 20 per cent of them do most of our business, so we are not oversaturated,” Gault said.
Gault emphasized the work Extreme has done building out their partner tools. This includes their Sales Dojo, a reworking of their training curriculum that integrates all the material from the acquisitions. Technical versions of the Dojo courses are in the works.
“We also introduced a worldwide sales portal for partners so they can do their own pricing and configuration,” he added. “We will also to continue to evolve our tools and access to demand generation activities.”
Gault said that while Extreme is well into its transformation, he acknowledged there is still a good way to go.
“When we started this, we were a $2 stock and we are now an $8 stock,” he said. “That gives us more currency to invest in R&,D and in acquisitions. We have gone from a $500 million company to a billion dollar company, and we plan to get to two billion. While we don’t want to focus too much on the competition when we have so much to do ourselves, when we get to two billion we can pass HPE.” Cisco, at seven billion, is a more distant goal.