Extreme CEO looks to converge networking with computing in data centers

Ex-Sun storage exec Mark Canepa says he brings 'computer guy' perspective to the Layer 3/10 Gigabit switch vendor.

1 2 Page 2
Page 2 of 2

That's an interesting question. If you look at the wireless market, it's about a $1 billion market. You could equate it a bit to like selling optics. It's a connectivity technology. So we're going to have to explore. There are two ways to think about this. One is the pure technology aspect: do you want to be in the business of developing the hardware, the software the sheet metal?

The other is at the systems level. If you are going to be a provider of sophisticated enterprise access technology, wireless is a very intriguing technology, when you also offer things like access control and security. Wireless is a veritable pool of viral infection. It's a great way for hackers to get into a company; it's all over the place, and you can't control anything. A customer who is nervous about running wireless is going to be asking a lot of questions about security, and Extreme can be the kind of sophisticated company that can come in and help them. So we need to distinguish a wireless [business] from the bits-and-bytes [development], from wireless as a piece of the enterprise [puzzle]. We may end up with different answers. Within the next few months [we'll figure out our strategies as to what we want to be involved in]. So far our strategy has been to partner on a lot of the technologies.

Do you feel advanced switching — high-end, high-speed switching — is still Extreme's core competency? Or has the company gotten away from that?

At first, Extreme's core competency was putting Layer 3 technology into Layer 2-style hardware, and just blowing away everyone with speed. But in practically every industry, you never survive on speeds and feeds. They get you going, but pretty soon you'd better start being in the business of solving customer problems. And most customer problems are not reflected in speeds or feeds. It's fun to watch Intel. It used to be microprocessors were all about megahertz and gigahertz. Now [clock speeds] are gone. Now its called "Duos" "Centrino" … anything but megahertz and gigahertz. So even in the CPU business, which was governed by the numbers of speeds and feeds, is changing.

That doesn't mean we're not going to be right there to ensure that our products are fast. We have people on the standards committees for 100 Gigabit Ethernet, and driving all of that. But you can't run a company purely on speeds and feeds. At one level yes, but at another level we're going to be more of a broader company, focusing on how we can solve customer problems — problems that are application driven. Extreme will be much more focused on what are the applications, and how can we make them run better.

What is Extreme's role in data center virtualization? How does Ethernet switching become part of that?

That is certainly Cisco's rhetoric. When Cisco bought Andiamo, my antennae went up. Then when they bought TopSpin, my antennae really went up. [While I was at Sun], my nightmare scenario was [if] Cisco bought Veritas. I thought for sure they would buy Veritas. Because then all of the sudden, what do you get? You'd have a company with file systems, volume managers and networks that can really suck a lot of value out of the servers. It's the systems vendors' nightmare because then the reality become this: all you need are some cheap Linux blades on one side, and some cheap JBODs [just a bunch of disks] on the other side, and you've pretty much sucked everything out of the data center.

Interestingly, Cisco did not buy Veritas. Maybe they didn't want to become that much of a software company. From the point of view for Extreme, there's a realization that this stuff is going to matter. There is real convergence in the data center. On one level, there is good news there for us because it puts more complexity into the switch, which is something that plays to our core strengths. The second thing is that it puts more different kinds of flows that have to be managed by the switch. So we have an opportunity to stake out a piece, whether it’s the grid that requires this kind of intelligence … or other types of architectures.

Learn more about this topic

Extreme taps ex-Sun storage chief as new CEO

Q&A: Sun exec explains StorageTek acquisition

Sun appoints new storage execs, restructures storage group

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

1 2 Page 2
Page 2 of 2
IT Salary Survey 2021: The results are in