Extreme Networks aims for flexibility, cross-company awareness with Elements rollout

Extreme Networks’ periodic table of Extreme Elements

NASHVILLE — Extreme Networks used an evening event at Nissan Stadium, home field for the NFL’s Tennessee Titans (an Extreme customer) to introduce what it calls Extreme Elements, a new company-wide strategy that attempts to break down silos within the company and in the awareness customers and partners alike may have of the company.

Extreme promotes Elements with, appropriately enough, a graphic that closely resembles the Periodic Table of Elements, with a number of its solutions and services each represented by an element-like two letter code. The analogy is that just like the elements are the fundamental building blocks of the universe, Extreme’s Elements are the fundamental building blocks of a networking solution. The approach marries a prescriptive reference architecture approach, bringing in a bunch of pieces that are pre-integrated or easily integrated, with a “choose your own adventure” approach that encourages customers to pick and choose the elements that work for to drive value for their industry or their particular set of needs. 

The message is that customers can create — or partners can create on behalf of their customers — networking solutions that better solve business needs by picking and choosing the pieces and parts that make the most sense, even if, in some cases, those pieces and parts don’t come from Extreme. 

The idea came together along with the realization that along with a binge of acquisition that saw the company snap up critical networking assets from Zebra, Brocade, and Avaya, the company had done a good idea of making it clear how it all fits together, said Abby Strong, vice president of product marketing at Extreme.

Abby Strong, vice president of product marketing at Extreme Networks

“Everything from our website to our partner training is situated around our three solution pillars. It’s a great way to frame up the acquisitions we made to get this portfolio, but it doesn’t make it obvious how it all comes together,” Strong said.

The company is also hoping the Elements approach will get past customers, partners and even in some cases, the organization itself thinking of the company in terms of its historical pieces. A big goal is to reduce the amount of time the company and its partners have to answer questions about whether or not different aspects of its portfolio work together. By focusing on Elements as integrated bits of functionality, into which all of the companies wares will fit, the company is hoping the answer will become a self-evident “yes.”

And while Extreme will do introduce some vertical specialty bundles to get the ball rolling and to show others how it can be done, much of the alchemy done with these particular Elements will be done by partners. By going with an array of products that are architected to work together, the company says partners will be able to meet their customers business outcome more quickly needs around the network and to craft more complete solutions.

“We wanted to make it easier for [partners] to look at the whole of the Fabric Connect solution,” Strong said. “I don’t think people realized the APs and the data centre switches can participate in this thing that came from the campus originally.”

The plan going forward is that all new solutions will become one or more Elements on the Extreme Periodic Table, and there will be a series of generic “Elements” that represent value that can be brought in from outside Extreme, for example, SD-WAN components from Fatpipe or stack portions from VMware or Nutanix. In those cases, Strong said it would be up to partners to be the ones to “create cohesive stories for customers.

The company is pushing hard to make sure customers and partners alike understand what all it can do with its various offerings, how broad its product family is. This may also be reflected by an upcoming change in how it handles its Dojo training. Today, training is mostly siloed in those three key solutions areas, and partners who self-identify is primarily in one of those categories may not have easy access to education around solutions outside that category. The goal, Strong suggested, would for partners to be able to get more information and training on products outside their self-selected sweet spots, should they want it, in hopes that will drive more cross-selling opportunities, particularly in cases where partners today may represent Extreme products in one category, and competitive wares in another.

“We want to make it a way to surface everything we do,” Strong said.

Robert Dutt

Robert Dutt is the founder and head blogger at ChannelBuzz.ca. He has been covering the Canadian solution provider channel community for a variety of publications and Web sites since 1997. 

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