CIOs Focused on Analytics, AI and Cybersecurity: Bob Gault, Extreme Networks

The key enabler of digital transformation is an organization’s network infrastructure

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Extreme Networks delivers customer-driven enterprise networking solutions that create stronger connections with customers, partners, and employees. It is focused on customer-driven networking to improve transformation, innovation, and customer experience – from the enterprise edge to the cloud – with software driven-solutions that are agile, adaptive, and secure.

Bob Gault, Chief Revenue & Services Officer, Extreme Networks, tells us more. Excerpts:

BW CIO: You announced the path to the new, agile data center. Elaborate. How is it different from the biggies?

Bob Gault: Most vendors today sell closed technology stacks with domain-level visibility. This makes it difficult for customers to adopt new, software-driven approaches that drive the business forward, or to test new technologies that aren’t driven by the vendor they have aligned with. In contrast,

Extreme provides technology that works in a multi-vendor heterogeneous environment, eliminating vendor lock-in. We deliver real, multi-vendor capabilities that meet the needs of the modern enterprise. For example, the Extreme Management Center allows for full visibility and management of multi-vendor networks, and Extreme Workflow Composer enables cross-domain, multi-vendor IT automation that allows organizations to automate at their pace—from automating simple tasks to deploying sophisticated workflows.

Further, our standards-based, multi-vendor interoperable and adaptable data enter fabric gives customers the ability to build once and re-use it many times. All of this gives organizations the ability to accelerate their digital transformation initiatives, and to adapt and respond to new service demands with cloud speed.

BW CIO: How does Extreme Networks enable digital transformation?

Bob Gault: According to a recent study, 89 percent of enterprises worldwide either plan to adopt, or have already adopted, a digital-first business strategy. The key enabler of digital transformation is an organization’s network infrastructure.

With the advent of IoT, pervasive mobility and growing cloud service adoption, the network has become increasingly distributed. As such, Extreme collaborates with our customers to build open, software-driven networking solutions from the enterprise edge to the cloud that are agile, adaptive, and secure to enable digital transformation.

We are a group of dedicated professionals who are passionate about helping our customers – and each other – succeed. Our 100 percent in-sourced services and support are #1 in the industry and even with 30,000 customers globally, including half of the Fortune 50, we remain nimble and responsive to ensure customer and partner success. We call this Customer-Driven Networking.

BW CIO: Three core drivers are: user experience, data, and insights, and the foundation to keep all that data secure. Elaborate.

Bob Gault: On top of providing the network building blocks for wired and wireless LAN access (routers, switches, access points, etc.), Extreme offers an array of software capabilities including analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning to help customers gather granular insights into who is using what application, when, and where.

With that data, customers can understand usage patterns to optimize applications, do capacity planning and fine-tune the infrastructure for optimal performance. By applying machine learning to the data, Extreme’s analytics can detect anomalies from devices and applications, and block potentially malicious access. Collectively, these capabilities allow organizations to deliver a better customer experience via personalized offers and engagement based on user behavior and with maximum security, network uptime and greater throughput.

Extreme offers the industry’s only end-to-end, single pane of glass solution that enables customers to accelerate digitization while saving IT operations cost with automation, visibility, analytics, and control. Our solution helps secure our customers’ networks and ensure exceptional user experiences with fast Mean Time to Innocence, application performance insights, security and forensics, and automated roll-out of consistent policies.

BW CIO: How is the edge to cloud reality among CIOs, especially in India? And, USA, other parts?

Bob Gault: In every part of the word, demand for processing at the edge is impacting how CIOs provision the entire network. Coming 5G and Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax)-enabled devices will ultimately drive adoption of VR/AR use cases, 4K streaming and increased use of cloud services, requiring upgrades in the campus, data center and cloud.

Forward-thinking CIOs are aware of this, and are planning for training, organizational transformation and infrastructure investment to make it all possible. The adoption of automation throughout the infrastructure will be critical.  Globally, CIOs are planning new spending on data analytics, cloud services and cybersecurity technologies to help their organizations keep up with this growth in new markets, develop new products and optimize costs.

BW CIO: How does the digital foundation extend to the edge and connects across the enterprise?

Bob Gault: The network is at the heart of digital transformation, and though we talk about the network in piece parts like edge, campus, core, and cloud, the reality is its all the network. It’s everywhere. The digital foundation focuses on exponential amounts of data being created, compute power shifting to the edge, and the edge requiring a connection to a broader digital enterprise. And, every piece needs to be agile, adaptive and secure to meet shifting demands for capacity 24/7.

The way to enable this is with pervasive visibility and management, and cross-domain automation across the entire network. As noted above, the Extreme Management Center allows for full visibility and management of multi-vendor networks, and the Extreme Workflow Composer enables cross-domain, multi-vendor IT automation.

BW CIO: What's your take on the Memory-Driven Computing architecture?

Bob Gault: Research programs that look to advance technology to new frontiers are absolutely essential. Memory-Driven Computing architecture has the promise of revolutionizing computing and server technologies. These new advances in computing architectures will require access to larger volumes of data that would be transported over a network that needs to be high-performing, adaptive, agile and secure.

BW CIO: How is the Industry in depths of stagnation? Elaborate.

Bob Gault: Networks, and our approach to networking, is fundamentally the same as it was 20 years ago. The industry’s largest vendors are still selling monolithic technology with expensive service contracts that require significant capital investment and forklift upgrades when it’s time to make a change. This isn’t what customers want any more. They want freedom. They want flexibility. They want the ability to build a solution that meets their unique needs, and some want the option to pay for it as service.

Extreme has been listening. Our innovative solutions work in any vendor environment. We offer flexible financing and service models. Our technology is software-driven and designed to take the work out of network management.

For example, until recently, network operations have been a manual, time consuming process for IT with changes to the network configuration to support new apps potentially taking weeks. By tapping into the capabilities of automation, processes are being streamlined, meaning that IT can focus on more strategic projects and tasks.

By 2021, more than 25 percent of the network infrastructure services worldwide will include autonomous self-managing packages, according to IDC. With automation, businesses can transform processes and workflows. In fact, a critical component of network-wide automation is network fabrics.

Fabrics will continue to see widespread use in 2019, to support automation and simplify network operations across the data center and campus networks. Machine learning technologies will be applied more widely too, going to the next level to provide more effective analytics, taking the guesswork out of network management.

BW CIO: What are the three key trends for CIOs (worldwide), and Indian CIOs?

Bob Gault: According to IDC, the most effective CIOs worldwide are focused on re-inventing their IT teams to align with modern networking demands, creating new digital platforms with agile connectivity, and updating legacy systems.  

In India, Gartner research reveals CIOs are specifically focused on analytics, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity.  Extreme tracks research from both research houses and works closely with CIOs across our 30,000 customer accounts to drive and support these efforts.

More specifically, by 2021, IDC predicts 70 percent of CIOs will deliver "agile connectivity" via APIs and architectures that interconnect digital solutions from cloud vendors, system developers, start-ups, and others, and 70 percent will aggressively apply data and AI to IT operations, tools and processes to cut costs, improve agility and accelerate innovation. Through 2022, 75 percent of successful digital strategies will be built by a transformed IT organization, with modernized and rationalized infrastructure, applications, and data architectures. 

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