FRAMINGHAM, Mass. - Enterasys
Networks has a storied past, springing, as it did, from the loins of Cabletron, the U.S. network giant whose revenues once surpassed US$1 billion, but then fell into disarray in the early 2000s.
Enterasys today is a fast growing private company and part of a joint venture with Siemens Enterprise Communications
, giving it added depth and reach. Network World recently interviewed president and CEO Chris Crowell
: You've been involved in this company in many capacities over many years, even heading IT at one point if I read it right. Crowell:
I've been with Enterasys since 2006, but I started at Cabletron in '92 to work on their management platform. When Cabletron split the company into four parts in 2000, I was running all technical parts of Spectrum -- I was CTO, I was head of IT for Spectrum, everything technical was under me - and Spectrum became Aprisma after the reorganization. As a subsidiary we stayed with Enterasys for two years and then we were sold to The Gores Group
, which is a private equity firm, then The Gores Group sold us to Concord Communications, and then Concord Communications was bought by CA. One of my claims to fame is I sold Spectrum/Aprisma three times.
Enterasys looks to take on Cisco, HP in fabrics
... I joined Enterasys in 2006 after The Gores Group took the company private and brought in a management team to rebuild them. So I joined doing the same thing I was doing at Aprisma, everything technical. I had worked with the new Enterasys CEO in the past and he was all about sales and marketing and didn't want anything to do with the technical stuff. And then about midway through 2008 Gores partnered with Siemens AG to create the joint venture of Siemens Enterprise Communications and Enterasys, Enterasys being the network part of that and Siemens Enterprise Communications being voice and unified communications and video.
We've been operating as a standalone operating entity within the joint venture. The way we go to market with Siemens Enterprise Communications, they are a premier partner and we're a preferred vendor, but both of us have to support infrastructures outside of each other. So I support multiple vendors in voice and video and they support multiple vendors on the data side.
They also have a large service arm, so it is important to their business to be able to support Cisco environments, HP environments, even old Nortel environments. But we go to market together. When we go to market with a complete solution, we do very well. But we also do a lot of business outside of going to market together.
Q: Percentage of sales wise, what does Enterasys represent?
Crowell: For the total joint venture, about 12 per cent to 15 per cent.
Q: And how would you summarize the Enterasys portfolio today?
Crowell: Access switching, data center core switching and then the management platform, which includes security.
... Maintenance, professional services and education is about 20 per cent of our business. The rest is product sales, and of that 40 per cent is access switching, 40 per cent is data centre core routing/switching and then 20 per cent of that is on the management side. Looking forward 12 months, we're about US$400 million in sales and we have more than 1,000 employees worldwide.
Q: You've been living in a very competitive industry for a long time. How do you position the company today?
Crowell: We have a technical differentiation and we have a company differentiation. On the technical side it is OneFabric. End-to-end visibility and control and policy management, whether you're at access switching, wired, wireless, all the way through the data center. All open standards, but a central management platform that treats the entire system like a system, and that makes us really different.
And as a company we go to market differently. We really believe, and it's our ethos, there's nothing more important than our customers, and we have a different customer service support model than anybody in this space. We're 100% in-source support. The technical support engineers work side-by-side with the actual development engineers. And so when you call us up and you get technical service, it is by far better than any other vendor.
Q: Everyone likes that word "fabric" these days, but how do you define it?
Crowell: I think the definition of fabric varies from vendor to vendor. If people specifically talk about the data centre it's really about any-to-any connection -- high performance, low latency, any-to-any connection. For us fabric is about that policy based visibility and control throughout the infrastructure. Really our model is not far off from software defined networking. It's very similar. A centralized engine that actually creates the policy control capabilities, but then implementation is pushed down into the infrastructure. So we localize that control capability as close to the user or the application or server as possible, but there's a centralized management platform. And that really is different, and we do it across the wired and the wireless environment.