Tag Archives: Extreme Networks

Extreme Networks Has Good Footing to Lead Network Fabric Evolution from Hype to Reality

If you manage a  network today, you are likely getting peppered by the drumbeat of  ideas for new ways of doing networking. Concepts like SDN, automation, AI, machine learning and fabric are becoming the next-generation lexicon of connectivity. Sure, us long-timers have heard it all before in different incarnations- but this is a pot that is really beginning to simmer while the industry tries to collectively move the way enterprise networks are done forward.

Meanwhile, those of us in the trenches have production environments to run. It’s not particularly comfortable to contemplate moving our own cheese in response to abstract promises of better ways and sunnier days, but Extreme Networks,Inc. may just be the company to break down the wall of hype and deliver the industry to the actual realization of the promise of network fabric architectures.

Before I get into why I think Extreme is the most likely company to show that the new network magic can actually be delivered in a way that leads to wide-scale adoption, let me share one of the best whitepapers I’ve read yet on what vendors are actually trying to do with the latest fabric initiatives. All the expected promises of simplification and reduced OpEx are in the Extreme Automated Campus document, but so is an excellent summation on some of the not-so-obvious advantages and evolutions that come with a properly implemented automated network. Among them:

  • The use of 802.1aq Shortest Path Bridging (SPB) as essentially a single-protocol replacement for traditional building blocks like MPLS, BGP, multicast PIM, OSPF, VLANs, and others. That’s huge, and reduces complexity by several orders of magnitude in large environments.
  • The notion that hop-by-hop network provisioning is a thing of the past. The network core is essentially unseen to most network admins, and all changes are done on the edge (live and without outages/maintenance windows).
  • User and device policies are the basis for automated network changes, and constant analytics provide feedback used to tune performance and anticipate issues.
  • By employing hyper-segmentation, a security breach in one part of the network is contained like never before, as the rest of the network is invisible to the bad guys because the old protocols leveraged for nefarious purposes are no longer present.
  • The use of APIs mean that third-party network components can interoperate with Extreme’s Automated Campus.

Extreme 3

There’s a lot more to the whitepaper, and I encourage anyone who’s been underwhelmed by other explanations of what network fabrics/automation are supposed to deliver read it as an excellent primer.

As I digested insights from Extreme’s whitepaper, I also found myself reminded that obsolescence can be insidious with the legacy methods we do networking with now. Dated designs can underperform today and fail tomorrow while we miss subtle signs of trouble because of disparate logs and dashboards. This isn’t news to anyone running large business networks, and is why automated analytics has a fairly strong appeal. This brings me back to Extreme and what puts them at the head of the pack within the networking space.

Extreme pioneered and set the bar high for network analytics with its ExtremeAnalytics platform. The value proposition has been proven in many cases, via a range of customer relationships. Where other networking companies are relying on third -parties or are just getting around to developing analytics solutions, Extreme has been optimizing networks based on machine-learning analytics for years.

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Then there is Extreme’s purchase of Avaya earlier this year. By my estimation, Avaya was the absolute creator of SDN-enabled network fabric environments. I visited the company’s Silicon Valley facilities in 2014 during Tech Field Day, and got a first-hand look at the impressive technology that  has become part of Extreme’s fabric offerings. Extreme now has real-world fabric customers and a mature offering among newcomers to the game.

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The fabric/SDN thing is here to stay as evidenced by the market leaders all talking it up as “what comes next” in unified networking. But how to get there – and whether you want to stay with your incumbent networking vendor for the leap – is a more complicated discussion. Some of the new initiatives feel cobbled-together, i.e. placing  frameworks of APIs into legacy hardware that may not have the best track-records for reliability. I’m of the opinion that some vendors are trying to figure out how to proceed with network-wide fabric methods,  while painting beta-grade efforts up with glitz and catchy slogans (though lacking depth and a track-record). This just isn’t the case for Extreme.

Extreme has done a great job in integrating their acquired Avaya fabric assets with their established portfolio and consolidating it all (along with their excellent technical support) into the Extreme Automated Campus. It’s new, on paper, but made up of mature industry-leading building-blocks. This is why I see Extreme as the one to beat in this space.

Learn more about the Automated Campus solution here.

Register for Extreme’s upcoming Automated Campus webinar here.


FTC-required disclosure: I was compensated to comment on the Extreme Networks Automated Campus referenced in this blog, by PR company Racepoint Global. I have no direct business relationship with Extreme Networks, and in no way claim to be an Extreme Networks customer or representative of Extreme Networks. The opinions expressed here are my own, and absolutely true at the time of publication.

Extreme Networks Makes the Case for 802.11ac Wave 2

With Wi-Fi technology constantly improving, it’s easy to stop paying attention to what incredible things are really happening for WLAN users. And incredible things are happening. With the arrival of 802.11ac’s Wave 2, we see new wheels put into motion for wireless users, and paths that the wireless industry had started down being turned into legitimate highways. 802.11ac Wave 2 is big news, and businesses are benefiting from its transformative nature, as over-viewed in a new eBook published by Extreme Networks.

As a wireless architect who builds WLAN environments of all sizes, I see first-hand how modern Wi-Fi enables new workflows and allows businesses to re-invent their processes as wired Ethernet gets pushed increasingly to the margins. Wireless connectivity has become the access method of choice for a huge swath of the business world, and Wave 2 is very persuasive to those who haven’t cut the cord yet. As highlighted by Extreme, it’s not just about signal coverage- or even speed- any more with enterprise Wi-Fi. Wave 2 also brings impressive capacity that further makes the case that businesses truly can run their operations over well-designed wireless networks, while enjoying the benefits of portability and mobility. With data rates topping 1.7 Gbps in ideal conditions, wireless traffic is forwarded with great efficiency in Wave 2 environments.

Extreme’s eBook makes the point that Wave 2 delivers a number of new or improved technologies, and these get even legacy client devices on and off the network quicker. Wi-Fi is still a shared medium, but that notion is getting blurred a bit with Wave 2, for everyone’s benefit. Multi-User MIMO (MU-MIMO) is rightfully getting its share of media coverage, as for the first time we have the capability for a single access point to service multiple clients simultaneously. Like with Wave 2’s impressive top-end for data rates, there are many factors that have to line up for MU-MIMO to live up to its capabilities at any given instant. But even though it may not be leveraged for every client and every transmitted frame given the variability of wireless, there’s no disputing the aggregate performance gains to be had by MU-MIMO. It really is exciting stuff, even to those of us who have seen it all when it comes to WI-Fi.

As businesses of all types consider whether Wave 2 is worth upgrading to, Extreme makes some good points. With more delivered network performance per AP, even for older non-802.11ac client devices, properly designed Wave 2 environments can significantly up the return on investment for the same spend as 11ac Wave 1 or 11n, if you negotiate your discounts right. If you’re sitting on an 11a/g or even early 11n network, making the jump to Wave 2 may be easy if your cabling plant and switches are up to date. Even if they’re not, it’s not uncommon to find that when planning for a new high-end wireless network, you can decrease your wired Ethernet expenditures as you make the jump. Everyone has their own OpEx/CapEx/TCO paradigm to define and muddle through, but Extreme gives pretty good food for thought in their eBook as you wrestle with your own situation.

Yes, Wave 2 has a business story to tell. Efficiency, performance, more-for-the-money, and so on- yes, those are all valid and noteworthy. But the Wave 2 story is also exciting at the user level. BYOD is an established fact of life, and in reality it’s more like Bring Your Own Many Devices for most of us. Our users have a slew of devices of various types and purpose, and 11ac Wave 2 helps with the overall Quality of Experience. Better cells are a tremendous asset to the end user, especially when those cells can self-leverage their best qualities for different device types.

Just remember that Wave 2 isn’t a design, or a deployment scenario. It’s a really awesome technology to be used to solve business problems and to facilitate business operations. As Extreme points out, Wave 2 is part of a bigger technology evolution story that features not just better Wi-Fi, but also switching developed just for 11ac, new analytics capabilities, improved security options, the Internet of Things, and (depending on your needs) impressive SDN and cloud tie-ins. Nothing under the network sun evolves in a vacuum, and Wave 2 fits very well with other advanced enterprise developments. Whether it makes sense for you to consider the move to Wave 2 is ultimately your call (and you’ll like get there at some point anyway). Extreme’s eBook on 802.11ac Wave 2 is an easy read, and does a pretty good job of telling the story of Wave 2 from a few different important angles.


FTC-required disclosure: I was compensated to review and comment on the 802.11ac Wave 2 eBook referenced in this blog, by PR company Racepoint Global. I have no direct business relationship with Extreme Networks, and in no way claim to be an Extreme Networks customer or representative of Extreme Networks. 

Extreme Ways- At Wireless Field Day 6

Extreme ways are back again,  Extreme places I didn’t know…

  – (Moby, Extreme Ways)

When it comes to wireless networking, Extreme ways are here, And Enterasys ways are gone- along with the legacy company name behind the product line that is now IdentiFi. New product line, new logo, new forward looking strategy. Now the company just needs to hire Moby to do some commercials…


I had the pleasure of visiting Extreme’s offices in San Jose as part of Wireless Field Day 6. The facility is very nice, and so were our hosts. Director of Mobility and Applications Mike Leibovitz opened the presentation with an overview of IdentiFi, which for me was the first formal intro I’ve had to Extreme’s WLAN solution. (I have covered Extreme WLAN from afar in the past, for NWC.com- like the release of the Altitude 4511 AP). Mike handed off to colleague Will Aguilar, Director of Product Management for IdentiFi.

Will filled the delegates in on IdentiFi’s APs, the system’s virtual and hardware appliances, and alluded to Extreme’s management tools (was a bummer we ran out of time and did not get a demo). I can’t say that I heard anything particularly unique in Extreme’s presentation, but it’s obvious that IdentiFi is positioned to compete with any WLAN vendor in the industry,

Given the buzz over the last couple of months regarding Extreme’s partnership with the National Football League for providing Wi-Fi analytics (and not necessarily only where Extreme WLAN is in use), it was nice to get a little glimpse of how Extreme has carried out stadium wireless in venues like Gillette Stadium and Lincoln Financial Field (Philadelphia Eagles), but the delegates made short work of Senior Wi-Fi Architect Dionis Hristov’s time. I also spent some time after the presentation hearing from Aguilar on the value of analytics, and the sizable dollars that they lead too in marketing and monitization. This is a huge topic and we’ll no doubt be hearing a lot about it in the months to come.

The videos from Extreme’s session at WFD 6 are here. Since Field Day, Extreme has announced Purview, the magic behind it’s new analytics gig.

My final analysis: Extreme is a big solutions story with a lot of chapters. A couple of hours wasn’t nearly enough to properly get our feet wet, and I hope we hear more from the company in future Field Days.

What’s The Big Deal With Stadium Wi-Fi? Let Me Spell It Out For You

Here’s the Executive Summary: Dollars. Quid. Clams. Smackers. Greenbacks.

Sure, some WLAN vendors and their Integrator buddies stand to make big dough from putting Wi-Fi in stadiums. But if you think that’s the end of the story, you might want to give the matter another think. A BIG ol’ think. There’s a LOT of money going a LOT of places in this equation.

I have written about stadium wireless once or twice in my Network Computing blog, but it was the recent announcement about Extreme Networks scoring the NFL Wi-Fi Analytics gig  that got me thinking more on the topic. But my ponderings didn’t stop with the NFL. No sir, the powerful cranium that sits a mere inches above my handsomely chiseled jaw also went to town thinking about Major League Baseball, the NBA, the NHL, Japanese baseball, the NCAA, minor league baseball, and even strayed into the realms of soccer and rugby.

Being all about value, I partnered with Google’s finest search engine to come up with a bunch of numbers. And they are impressive.

Riddle me this: How many professional-level stadiums are out there in the world of sports? What about college? And the minors?

The answer of course is “a boatload”.

And let’s talk about how big that boat is. Here are the number of teams for each sport, at the identified level:

  • NFL Football: 32 teams
  • NCAA Football: 245 teams (with at least 100 stadiums)
  • Major League Baseball: 30 teams
  • Minor League Baseball: 240 teams (at different levels in 6 countries)
  • NBA Basketball: 30 teams
  • NCAA DIvision 1 Basketball: 345 teams
  • NHL Hockey: 30 teams
  • Nippon Professional Baseball (Japan): 12 teams
  • International Professional Soccer: 200+ teams

And the list goes on with other sports venues, convention centers, etc- but you probably are starting to get the point. Now let’s play the “What If” game from the above data set.

Of the over 1,100 teams specified above, let’s say that 400 of them had a stadium or arena that has, or will get, decent Wi-Fi. We know that some venues like Cowboys Stadium (now called AT&T stadium) have far higher than 500 access points (Cisco in this case), while facilities like Packers’ Stadium (Lambeau Field) have a small quantity of APs (Aerohive for the Cheeseheads) that cover select administrative areas only. We also see that Ruckus soccer stadium deployments in Brazil feature a few hundred APs per. So for the sake of conversation, we’ll say each of our 400 example venues will get a conservative 250 access points each. That’s a total of 100,000 access points (anyone familiar with topical reality would probably agree that I’m being very conservative with this exercise).

Let’s keep going… behind those 100,000 access points we have:

  • Spare APs
  • Controllers
  • Countless server types
  • Licensing
  • Maintenance agreements
  • Specialized antennas
  • Cabling
  • Pathway
  • Switches
  • UPS
  • Routers
  • New MTRs and ITRs
  • ISP connections
  • NOC operations
  • App developers
  • Security appliances
  • Analytics services
  • Upgrades
  • Jobs- both short term and long
  • New cultures
  • Marketing
  • Infinite “one thing enables another” opportunities

I don’t know about you, but I smell money. Let’s get even more bold, and say that each one of those 400 stadiums with 250 access points had a simple installation cost breakdown like this:

250 APs x $5,000 each (that includes cabling, pathway, controllers, switches- everything) = $1.25 Million per facility.

Multiply that by 400 stadiums, and we’re looking at a theoretical $50 Million cost, just to equip the 400 example venues with theoretical Wi-Fi. (And again- my numbers are BS, very conservative versus likely real costs and actual aggregate AP counts.) Then there are the costs of running the network, monitizing it (it takes money to make money), and evolving it based on the findings of lots and lots of analytics that are being counted on to return quick ROI on the technology investment. Along the way, a number of decent jobs have been created (or will be when people who have no clue what they are doing with big WLAN’s hire help). This is a big story with a lot of chapters.

I’m greatly oversimplifying something that is huge here- and I want it to be perfectly clear that my analysis is simple conversation fodder to make the point. And that point is- there’s a lot of money involved with in stadium Wi-Fi. So much so, that many WLAN vendors have special programs just for stadium WLAN. For example (this is in no way a complete list):

Cisco Connected Stadium

Aruba Networks Large Public Venues

Xirrus Stadium Wireless

Meru Sports and Entertainment Solutions

Extreme Networks Sports and Entertainment

Ruckus High Density Solutions

Even Ubiquiti Is In On It

(I’ll be talking with Extreme, Xirrus, and Aruba at Wireless Field Day 6)