What Extreme’s string of networking acquisitions means for enterprises

Extreme has recently bought Avaya and Brocade networking technology and Zebra gear, which may be an opportunity for enterprises to rethink their networking purchases.

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Martyn Williams/IDGNS

Extreme Network’s recent string of acquisitions – including it’s recent $100 million auction-buy of Avaya’s networking business, it’s purchase of Brocade’s Ethernet IP networking assets and its purchase of wireless vendor Zebra Technologies last year – should cause enterprise end users to potentially rethink their network infrastructure buying decisions when it comes time for their next hardware refresh, according to Forrester analyst Andre Kindness.

Kindness says in the immediate short term, there are not likely to be any major changes to offerings from these vendors; all current Avaya and Brocade networking gear will still be supported. But given Extreme’s acquisition spree, it’s expected there will be some consolidation and blending of products over the medium and long-term. “As with anything, it will take some time to reconcile the moves and figure out the new direction,” says Kindness.

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Some analysts are optimistic these assets will fit nicely together. Network World blogger Zeus Kerravala believes the move will be good for Avaya customers, with technologies from the companies complementing each other. Avaya’s strength in the data center and campus seems to align well with Extreme’s focus on both campus and LAN activities. Meanwhile, the acquisitions build out Extreme’s product portfolio, especially as it relates to wireless, which Avaya and Brocade customers could benefit from. Still, Kindness says already some customers he’s spoken with are concerned about which products will be changing over the long-term.

Extreme was the only known bidder for Avaya’s networking business, which was sold off in an auction by the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York on May 31. Extreme’s President and CEO Ed Meyercord said the deal could generate over $200 million in annual revenue and will help the company broaden its reach into vertical markets such as healthcare and manufacturing.

Extreme bought Brocade’s Ethernet networking business for $55 million in late March. Networking chipmaker Broadcom late last year purchased Brocade, but Broadcom announced at the time of the acquisition its plan to spin off Brocade’s networking assets so that it would not be competing with its customers in offering network hardware.

Extreme also purchased Zebra Technologies wireless business for $55 million in cash last September. That move filled in some gaps in Extreme’s wireless LAN portfolio – such as security and managed services -- and entered Extreme into new vertical markets like retail and transportation.

With that purchase, Extreme got Zebra’s wireless LAN 802.11ac high-speed wireless access portfolio, which includes Zebra’s WiNG wireless operating system, NSight advanced network troubleshooting package as well as a managed service suite that Extreme did not offer.

The Zebra buy was just the latest piece of a rapidly changing and shrinking wireless LAN vendor environment. In the past couple years, HP bought Aruba, Fortinet grabbed up Meru and most recently Brocade nabbed Ruckus which has now been sold to Arris.

Avaya has a varied history as it was spun from Lucent Technologies in 2000. It went private in 2007 and bought Nortel technology in 2009.

Extreme acquired Enterasys in 2013 and continues to grow and compete effectively with Cisco, HPE, Dell EMC and Juniper.

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