The ultimate guide to strategic tech partners

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The IT vendor landscape is constantly in flux, with mergers, acquisitions, new technology developments and the growth of the cloud having a huge impact on which companies might be the most strategic partners for organizations looking to enhance their technology infrastructure.

Consider some of the major technology merger and acquisition activities just over the past year: Microsoft acquired LinkedIn, Oracle acquired NetSuite, Broadcom acquired Brocade, HPE is buying Nimble Storage, and Dell acquired EMC.

These transactions could shift the balance of power in certain IT segments, or strengthen the position of some of the market leaders. We talked to industry analysts to determine which companies are the leaders in various industry segments, and which are the up-and-coming challengers.

Networking equipment

The network infrastructure market is undergoing a significant, almost disruptive, evolution because of the ongoing digital transformation of the enterprise, says Rohit Mehra, vice president, network infrastructure at International Data Corp. (IDC).

“And this is happening across multiple domains, as a result of key market trends such as mobility and cloud, and more recently, the increased uptake of IoT specific applications,” Mehra says.

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The market “is in the middle of the largest transformation it has seen since IP became the dominate network transport protocol,” adds Andre Kindness, principal analyst at Forrester Research, covering infrastructure and networking. “While network companies have come and gone, the traditional network market really has [not] changed much over the last 15 years.”

Many vendors have started realizing that creating networking equipment for the general market is a dead-end game, Kindness says. "There isn’t much [growth] in campus, generic branch offices, or data center networks,” he says. “The real growth is connecting devices together inside a plant, car, airplane, oil platform, hospital, etc. The generic networking switch and AP [access point] isn’t built for those environments and unique demands.”

This current market shift encompasses a clear change toward software and associated “as-a-service” consumption models, a broader move toward network virtualization across all segments, and an effort toward improving application and infrastructure security, Mehra says.

Within that context, Cisco is the incumbent and the leader, with enterprise technologies that span several segments, Mehra says. “It continues to refine and fine tune its overall portfolio to ensure it can meet the market needs of the segments it serves, including the enterprise campus and the data center, as well as service providers,” he says.

Other major players in the networking space, including HPE/Aruba and Brocade/Ruckus, “have the intrinsic portfolio and market strengths to challenge Cisco’s leadership in the coming years,” Mehra says.

Smaller players and startups will play a significant role in their own right, Mehra says. These include Aerohive, Fortinet, Extreme and Huawei in the wired/wireless equipment market; and Viptella, VeloCloud, CloudGenix, Versa and Cybera in the emerging area of SD-WANs.

Other innovative networking vendors include Accelerated Concepts, Arista Networks and LiLee Systems, Kindness says.

And enterprises can expect more changes in the coming year. “In terms of the outlook for 2017, this seems to be yet another year with significant M&A [merger and acquisition] activity,” Mehra says.

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