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Extreme unveils universal networking gear to simplify infrastructure decisions

News Analysis
Sep 16, 20207 mins
Cloud ComputingNetworking

Extreme Networks takes the wraps off new core switches; cloud-based management platform adds wireless intrusion protection, location services, IoT management, guest access, and compliance apps.

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Extreme Networks is unveiling a family of hardware and software that promises to let enterprise customers deploy wired or wireless platforms and manage security and other key resources from a cloud-based console.

On the hardware side, the company is rolling out new core switches: the wired 5520 Series universal edge and aggregation switches, and the wireless, WiFi 6-based AP300C and AP400C Series universal access points.

Upon linking to the company’s flagship ExtremeCloud IQ cloud-based management platform (or manually through customized on-premises deployment), users of the new systems can pick and choose the Extreme operating system they need to support their particular infrastructure needs. Those options include ExtremeXOS and VSP Operating System (VOSS) with future support expected for the SLX Operating System under the 5520 switch and Aerohive IQ Engine and the Motorola WiNG for the wireless APs. 

“The idea is that customers don’t have to network elements based on hardware choices; they can pick and choose wired or wireless where they need it, or upgrade and support equipment they already have without having to get rid of it as they add infrastructure,” said Nabil Bukhari, chief product officer and chief technology officer of Extreme Networks.   

The universal systems offer customers choices, and at the same time, simplify use and deployment as well as purchasing and operations, since there is only a single hardware/software SKU to order, and that hardware can be applied to multiple use cases, Bukhari said. The universal hardware products can be deployed across a range of edge, aggregation, and wiring-closet environments, and they allow all enterprise-level services to be managed in a single platform for a single price, he said

The universal rollout is a natural progression of the journey Extreme started years ago, said Bob Laliberte, practice director and senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group. As Extreme has acquired and integrated technology from a number of different companies – Zebra, Brocade, Avaya and Aerohive – over the years, each brought its own hardware, software and operating systems.

“With this announcement, Extreme has standardized the hardware for Extreme customers. So regardless if you were a legacy Brocade, Avaya, Extreme or Aerohive [customer], moving forward there is only one hardware platform,” Laliberte said. “However, the platform allows users to continue to use the OS of choice – making the transition at a time of their choosing. This will be very useful for those companies not ready, for example, to move to cloud-based management. It will allow them to switch at a later time but have the ability to use the same hardware.”

As for the hardware, the 5520 Series includes 24- and 48-port 1 Gigabit models, 1/2.5/5 Gigabit multi-rate models, as well as a 24-port 10 Gigabit model. The series also offers multi-watt power over Ethernet (PoE) capabilities, making it an ideal wired backend for wireless APs or support for next-gen powered Ethernet devices, such as digital signage, pan-tilt-zoom cameras, smart lighting, or point-of-sale terminals. The 5520 further supports 10G and 25G modular uplinks for flexible linkage to other switches or devices over a range of media.

The AP300C Series are indoor enterprise APs based on a new system-on-chip (SoC) featuring two built-in dual-band radios, with options for models with either internal or external antennas. Advanced radio technology delivers Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) data rates up to 2.4 Gbps concurrently on both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz radios, Extreme stated.

The AP400C series provides 802.11ax data rates up to 4.8 Gbps in the 5 GHz band and concurrent 2.4 Gbps in the 2.4 GHz band. Unlike many access points that scan only part time, the AP400C’s dedicated, dual-band sensor scans for rogue devices full time, protecting the network from vulnerability or attacks, Extreme stated. Both APs continue the Extreme tradition of software-selectable radios capable of dual 5 GHz connectivity for indoor and industrial environments.

On the software side, Extreme said it would offer five new “essential” applications for its ExtremeCloud IQ cloud-based management system: wireless intrusion protection, guest access, location services, IoT management, and compliance apps at no extra cost.

“Over the next 90 days, customers and partners with a Pilot subscription can access these essential services within the ExtremeCloud IQ platform, providing IT departments with all the tools required for complete network visibility, management, control, and compliance from a single tool,” the company said.

The new essential apps include:

  • Extreme AirDefense: The program watches over 55 threat vectors for wireless intrusion prevention (WIPS) and adds Bluetooth and Bluetooth Low Energy or BIPS as an essential service.
  • ExtremeLocation: The program features proximity, presence, and location-based services for contact tracing.
  • ExtremeGuest: Offers guest Wi-Fi access capabilities coupled with network analytics for retail, hospitality, and large event venues.
  • ExtremeIoT: The package delivers secure onboarding, profiling, segmentation, and filtering of IoT devices on a production network.
  • ExtremeCompliance: The package supports automated and comprehensive compliance testing for PCI, HIPAA, and GDPR.

Extreme also said it is offering a free ExtremeCloud IQ mobile app, providing IT departments with the ability to quickly onboard new devices using just a serial number or use a smartphone or tablet to scan barcodes or QR tags. They can also manage and troubleshoot issues remotely, which could be important for IT teams tasked with managing networks stretching across wide geographic areas or hundreds of buildings, Extreme stated.

“Customers should definitely take a look at this initial suite of analytics software to determine it is a fit for their organization,” Laliberte said. “Given the financial pressures many organizations are under this year, getting something of value for free should be welcomed. Our research conducted after COVID-19 struck indicated that organizations wanted solutions that provided increased ROI. I would say this would fit the bill.”

The applications could be helpful to those IT departments tasked with tracking returning students or employees during the pandemic.

“Security is always top of mind for organizations so I imagine AirDefense will be popular as well. For highly regulated markets such as healthcare or financial services ExtremeCompliance should deliver value. I expect, that ExtremeGuest could be useful for everyone,” Laliberte said.

“I think what is more important than any of the individual apps is that all of these are built using modern application architectures and processes, which will enable not only updates and fixes to be addressed quickly, but also the creation on new applications to join this suite,” Laliberte said.

Extreme has continued to grow – mainly inorganically – over the last few years and has compiled technology that enables them to deliver a complete end-to-end network environment, Laliberte said. “The key moving forward is how they continue to execute on the cloud-based management and functionality within. Essentials is a good start,” he said.

The Extreme Switching 5520 Series family will be available in November 2020, and the AP300 and AP400 series will be available in January 2021.

ExtremeCloud IQ platform licenses come in multiple tiers. The Connect tier provides basic device management and is free with the purchase of any supported Extreme hardware platform. The Navigator tier now enables Extreme’s established WiNG wireless solution to interface directly with the cloud and provides visibility and management features. The Pilot tier – which is required for the new apps – offers advanced infrastructure management, reporting, and remediation tools, including ML and AI-driven insights and analytics. Pilot tier subscriptions are $150/year regardless of device under management, and offers public, private, or on-premises deployment methods.

The ExtremeCloud IQ mobile app will be available October 1.