Spectrum refocuses as Aprisma

The question of what’s in a name may be an important one when considering the future of Aprisma Management Technologies, in Durham, N.H., a spin-off of Cabletron Systems, according to one analyst.

Bill Gassman, senior research analyst with the Gartner Group Inc. in Stamford, Conn., said he believes the move by Cabletron to create a separate network management software company, based around its successful Spectrum software, is a good one and long overdue.

However, Gassman said while Spectrum’s products are good, it was a mistake to not name the new company after its most successful product.

Aprisma officials though, emphasised they have no intention of disassociating the new company from the Spectrum name.

“We’re maintaining the Spectrum name. The Spectrum product name has quite a bit of brand equity behind it. We don’t want to do anything to damage that and we want to leverage the brand equity behind Spectrum,” Darren Orzechowski, vice-president of marketing for Aprisma, said.

Orzechowski added the company tried to get the name Spectrum, but there were already too many companies with related names.

“Obviously, if you’re going to have a separate company we had to have our own name. We researched pretty heavily into using the Spectrum name for the company and unfortunately there was no legal basis for us to protect the name. There’s way too many companies out there with the name Spectrum and there was no way for us, from a trademark standpoint, to protect it as a company name,” Orzechowski explained.

Gassman said Aprisma didn’t try hard enough to get the name.

“It’s going to cost them an awful lot of money to get brand equity back and the question is if they will spend it,” he said.

Tere’ Bracco, principal analyst for enterprise infrastructure, with Current Analysis in Dallas, Tex., agreed the name issue is very important but she questioned the move to split away from Cabletron.

“It’s a baffling move. Cabletron has been a deer caught in headlights, for some time now. The one technology that they develop themselves and could take them into the future was Spectrum and they’ve spun it off on its own. I assume it was a cash move. Now they may have the cash in the bank, but they don’t own the technology and Spectrum was their home-grown miracle. I can’t see that it’s a positive move for Cabletron,” Bracco said.

Bracco suggested the move by Cabletron to spin off Aprisma is a pre-IPO (initial public offer) move. Bracco predicted that once the stock is issued for Aprisma, Cabletron will no longer have control of technology developed by Aprisma. She likened Cabletron’s move to 3Com Corp.’s spinning off the Palm Pilot division.

Orzechowski confirmed the company is looking into releasing an IPO.

Bracco suggested that Cabletron, rather than spinning off Spectrum, should have refocused its strategic direction by concentrating on network management and the platform it acquired from Yago Systems (now the SmartSwitch Router line).

“It would make more sense rather than selling off the new furniture to just stop paying attention to the old furniture,” Bracco said.

The old furniture would be Cabletron’s SmartSwitch, which the company has not added to in three years.

Bracco doesn’t agree that Cabletron could be on the selling block.

“Name a possible buyer who has a niche that Cabletron could fill – I can’t,” Bracco said.

Orzechowski said the spin-off of Aprisma from Cabletron was necessary because Spectrum would be a much stronger product line if it were bundled as a multi-vendor network management program with other competitors’ products. For example, shortly after creating the new company, Aprisma has joined Cisco’s network management partners program. A large percentage of Aprisma’s customers have Cisco equipment and the agreement will allow Aprisma to work more closely with Cisco to develop its software with those customers in mind, Orzechowski said.

Orzechowski said by going solo, Aprisma can get access to distribution channels other than Cabletron.

“The other factor for spinning [Aprisma] out is that it allows us to take investments from strategic partners in the industry,” Orzechowski said.

Compaq has made a significant multi-million dollar investment into Aprisma and will be a reseller and distributor of the Spectrum product line.

Trent Waterhouse, director of product marketing with Aprisma, said the company plans an expansion of its network management integration with Cisco, Lucent Technologies Inc. and Nortel Networks. Waterhouse added that the building of Internet infrastructure by optical industry players will be an area Aprisma plans to enter.

“You will see Spectrum expanding its capabilities beyond network management to become a comprehensive service management architecture,” he said.

To manage service levels requires not only looking at the network, but also the computers and the applications and the people, and this necessitates working with other vendors such as Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard, Waterhouse explained.

The Gartner Group’s Gassman said the ability to work with other hardware makers is key for Aprisma’s survival.

“Without Cisco they’re dead. They have to work with Cisco,” he said.

However, in order to be successful in attracting new (non-Cabletron) customers Aprisma needs the brand equity it has with Spectrum, Gassman added.

“Seventy per cent of their customer base was leveraged business from the Cabletron side. However, they’re working with a whole new business model now. [Now] they need to attract new customers in an environment, where there’s a tremendous number of choices out there,” Gassman said.