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Extreme Networks integrates acquisitions with SD-WAN, switch

After five major acquisitions in six years, Extreme Networks is prioritizing a unified, cloud-managed environment with SD-WAN, switches and a digital twin.

Extreme Networks announced three products -- a general-purpose SD-WAN, a 5720 switch and a digital twin product -- to integrate the vendor's various recent acquisitions more tightly.

The announcements made at Extreme Connect this week will ensure customers who joined Extreme through one of its acquisitions will have the same cloud-managed wired, wireless and WAN experience as longtime customers.

ExtremeCloud SD-WAN is Extreme Networks' first SD-WAN offering. It was developed from the tech the vendor acquired when it purchased Ipanema, the SD-WAN division of Infovista, for $73 million in 2021. ExtremeCloud SD-WAN can be purchased as a subscription, and offers security services including advanced threat prevention powered by Check Point and built-in firewalls.

The general-purpose SD-WAN's value-add over a third-party option is its ability to tightly integrate with the rest of the vendor's portfolio. As a result, ExtremeCloud SD-WAN will most interest customers who already have an end-to-end Extreme networking environment, said Bob Laliberte, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group.

Unifying the hardware environment

Because Extreme Networks has been on a buying spree in recent years, even end-to-end Extreme customers may have very different legacy hardware. The vendor acquired Zebra Technologies' wireless LAN business in 2016, Avaya's campus networking business and Brocade's data center business in 2017 and Aerohive Networks' cloud-managed portfolio in 2019, in addition to Infovista's Ipanema SD-WAN business in 2021.

Extreme's second product announcement, the 5720 Universal Switch, is meant to address that problem. Whether a customer has legacy hardware from one of the acquired companies or brand-new Extreme environment, the wired and wireless 5720 Universal switches will operate identically.

"We talk about Juniper 'Mist-ifying,' right? It's the opposite of that -- they bought a bunch of different companies and they're 'Extreme-ifying,'" Laliberte said about the increased interoperability the new switch offers.

Like the rest of the 5000-series switches, the 5720 is managed using ExtremeCloud IQ, the cloud-based network management platform built with technologies from the 2019 Aerohive acquisition. The new switches are aimed at midsize to large enterprises, and they offer 1, 2.5, 5 and 10 Gb connections in all ports.

Modeling the Extreme network

Finally, Extreme announced ExtremeCloud IQ CoPilot AIOps, a digital twin that allows customers to create digital models of their network environments. CoPilot also lets network managers test new configurations or automations on the digital twin before deploying it to the real network, giving them a chance to spot problems before they affect users.

When Enterprise Management Associates analyst Shamus McGillicuddy surveyed 359 IT professionals in December 2021 on network automation, he found that 87% believed a digital twin would help them.

"The biggest use cases they saw for this were capacity planning -- being able to understand how, as traffic grows on your network, the capacity of that network can be managed through automated changes -- and network design. As they're designing their network, they can design it first in digital twin to see if the design they're using is going to work,” he said.

The biggest differentiators in a digital twin would be the ability to model a multi-vendor environment and tight integration with automation capabilities, McGillicuddy said.

CoPilot can deploy configurations with the push of a button, but for the moment, it only automatically generates twins of Extreme's own network elements. Extreme Networks CTO Nabil Bukhari said the company does plan to eventually support digital twins of Zebra handheld devices. In keeping with the theme of cloud-based consolidation, CoPilot is managed using ExtremeCloud IQ.

Consolidating and improving the interoperability among Extreme's portfolio of acquired technologies will better position Extreme to compete with end-to-end vendors like Cisco's Meraki, Aruba and Juniper, Laliberte said.

"If you're [already] an Extreme customer, you'll kind of welcome these additions," he said. "From a competitive differentiation [standpoint], those are also things that will make people sit up and take more notice of Extreme, now that they've got that full, unified, end-to-end environment."

ExtremeCloud SD-WAN is available now. The 5720 Universal switches can be ordered now and will start shipping in July. CoPilot has been in public beta for a year and is now entering general availability.

Enterprise Strategy Group is a division of TechTarget.

Madelaine Millar is a news writer covering network technology at TechTarget. She has previously written about science and technology for MIT's Lincoln Laboratory and the Khoury College of Computer Sciences, as well as covering community news for Boston Globe Media.

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