Paul Semak, who runs Extreme Networks’ sales in Canada, provides an update on the company’s recent developments and Canadian momentum.
Extreme Networks has made a pair of announcements which they are emphasizing reflects their growing strength in the Canadian market. They have announced the availability of a native Azure cloud management platform located in Canada, making them the first networking provider to offer a Canadian-resident cloud management platform. They also announced they will expand their 100-plus software engineering organization in Canada by 10% with Canadian university hires.
“We are right now the only cloud networking company to actually have a node based in Canada,” said Paul Semak, Extreme Networks’ Vice President of Sales and Operations Americas International, a long-time senior sales exec with Cisco Canada, who moved to Extreme in late 2018, and now runs their sales in Canada, South America, Mexico and the Caribbean. “When I was with Cisco, we tried for years to get this. Extreme now has 17 different nodes in five different countries, and we were able to get this one in Canada because we succeeded in achieving a predetermined customer goal.”
Extreme’s rebound in Canada has been a significant one. The company has been in Canada for many years, and after they acquired Enterasys in 2013, they moved into the Enterasys offices in Thornhill. But by that point, despite a large staff, the business in Canada was declining year-over-year, and by early 2015, the company basically pulled out of Canada, leaving a skeleton crew in Thornhill, managing the business out of the U.S., and getting Canadian coverage through partners and distribution. With the acquisition of assets from Zebra, Avaya and Brocade in 2016 and 2017, Extreme returned to Canada in a big way, and saw a major increase in Canadian business, with the Avaya networking business being particularly significant here. That growth has continued steadily, and intensified this year.
“We doubled our customer base in the last two years,” Semak said. “I know it’s said to be pretty common in the industry, but COVID has accelerated our customers’ digital initiatives. Customers with 5-7 year plans to move apps to the cloud have accelerated that significantly. Our forecasts are pretty strong in Canada, and that helped us justify the cloud platform in Canada. We chose Azure to start with.”
Like the other major players in the networking space, Extreme had already begun intensifying its cloud efforts, and significantly supplemented this with the 2019 acquisition of Aerohive Networks, which expanded their cloud management and edge capabilities.
“We now lead 100% of the time with ExtremeCloud,” Semak said. “We are number two in the cloud networking space, with Cisco leading and HPE being number three. Our cloud is built off of microservices, which allows us very high uptime – 100% uptime in the last 16 months. All of our products can be managed through the cloud, even if they are on-prem. We are cloud independent and can be premise or private cloud if you need that. We recently changed a customer from Google Cloud to Azure and they had no downtime.”
While improvements in data encryption have reduced some of the traditional fears about data being stored outside the country, Semak said customers have told them having the Canadian-resident platform is still significant for them.
“We have been told that from a legal position it helps them,” he said. “One told us that he has to write up reports about where the metadata goes, which takes hours. With us having data in Canada, that really helps him.”
Semak said that the increased strength in Canada, as well as the importance of the Canadian-based engineering team to Extreme’s artificial intelligence and machine learning research, also warranted the increased investment in Canadian engineers.
“We have just over 100 R&D members in Canada, and Toronto is leading our wireless cloud and analytics development,” he noted. “It’s really all about machine learning and analytics. Nabil [Bukhari, Extreme’s Chief Technology Officer and Chief Product Officer, who lives in the Greater Toronto Area] is really impressed with the talent that comes out of our big universities, particularly Toronto, Waterloo and McGill. With the AI and machine learning accelerators it was a no-brainer to invest more in Canada, especially given that Canada has accelerated digital initiatives, and our forecasts for Canada are growing. We are making a bet to grow our talent in Canada.”
Extreme has also increased the number of channel partners they have in Canada. “We have had close to a 200% increase in Canada in the last year, with the cloud-only partners that came from Aerohive,” Semak said. “Our partners have shifted from being just installation and services partners. With cloud, they can do more value-add. They can offer managed services. They can turn data into information for guest tracking, or threat analysis from WiFi, or IoT security. There are a lot more services that they can wrap around.”
Semak thinks that company has the right characteristics to let it continue to succeed in the Canadian market.
“Extreme hasn’t changed from being a customer-centric company,” he said. “We are still the right size of company to do business with – the number two cloud networking vendor, but still small enough to make changes happen for customers in our cloud. As we take more market share, our customers are starting to understand our brand in Canada and are getting more comfortable with us.”