2014 – Introductions Are In Order

It’s January 1 again.  Time to look back at what I said I was going to do for 2013.  Remember how there was going to be lots of IPv6 in the coming year?  Three whole posts.  Not exactly ushering the future, is it?  What did I work on instead?

It’s been a bit of a change for me.  I’ve gone from bits and bytes to spreadsheets and event planning.  It’s a good thing.  I’m more in touch with people now that I ever was behind a console screen.  I can see the up-and-comers in the industry.  I help bring attention to people that deserve it.  People like Brent Salisbury (@NetworkStatic), Jason Edelman (@JEdelman8), and Jake Snyder (@JSnyder81).

I still get involved with technology.  It’s just more at a higher architectural level.  That means I can stay grounded while at the same time interacting with the people that really know what’s going on.  In many ways, it’s the cross discipline aspect that I’ve been preaching to my old coworkers for years taken to a different extreme.

That means 2014 is going to look much different than I thought it would a year ago.  Almost like I need to introduce myself to the new year all over again.

I really want to spend the next year concentrating on the people.  I want to help bring bloggers and influencers along and give them a way to express themselves.  Perhaps that means social media.  Or a new blog.  Or maybe getting them on board with programs like the Solarwinds Ambassadors.  I want the smart people out there to show the world how smart they are.  I don’t want anyone to go unheard for lack of a platform.

I also really liked this article from John Mark Troyer about creating the new year you want to see.  John has some great points here.  I’ve always tried to stay away from making bold predictions for the coming year because they never pan out.  If you want to be right, you either couch the prediction with a healthy about of uncertainty or you guess something that’s almost guaranteed to happen.  I much prefer writing about what I need to accomplish or what I think needs to happen.  You really are more likely to get something accomplished if you have a concrete goal of self advancement.

Every new year starts out with limitless potential.  Every one of us has the ability and the desire to do something amazing.  I’ve never been one for making resolutions, as that seems to be setting yourself up for failure in many cases.  Instead, I try to do what I can every day to be awesome.  You should too.  Make 2014 an even better year than the last ten or twenty.  Learn how SDN works.  Learn a programming language.  Write a book or a blog or a funny tweet. Express yourself so that everyone knows who you are.  Make 2014 the year you introduce yourself to the world.  If you’ve already done that, make sure the world won’t forget you any time soon.

Will Dell Buy Aerohive?

DELL-Aerohive-Logo

One rumor I keep hearing about in the industry involves a certain buzzing wireless vendor and the world’s largest startup.  Acquisitions happen all the time.  Rumors of them are even more frequent.  But the more I thought about it, the more I realized this may be good for everyone.

Dell wants to own the stack from top to bottom.  In the past, they have had to partner with printer companies (Lexmark) and networking companies (Brocade and Juniper) to deliver parts of the infrastructure they couldn’t provide themselves.  In the case of printers, Dell found a way to build them on their own.  That reduced their reliance on Lexmark.  In the networking world, Dell shocked everyone by going outside their OEM relationship and buying Force10.  I’ve talked before about why the Force10 pickup was a better deal in the long run than Brocade.

Dell’s Desires

Dell needs specific pieces of the puzzle.  They don’t want to be encumbered with ancillary products that will need to be jettisoned later.  Buying Brocade would have required unwinding a huge fibre channel business.  In much the same way, I don’t think Dell will end up buying their current wireless OEM, Aruba Networks.  Aruba has decided to branch out past the doing simple wireless and moved into wired network switches and security and identity management programs like ClearPass.  Dell doesn’t want any of that.  They already have an issue integrating the Force10 networking expertise into the PowerConnect line.  I’ve been told in the past the FTOS will eventually come to PowerConnect, but that has yet to happen.  Integrating purchased companies isn’t easier.  That becomes exponentially harder the more product lines you have to integrate.

Aruba is too expensive for Dell to buy outright.  Michael Dell spent a huge chunk of his cash to get his company back from the shareholders.  He’s going to put it on a diet pretty soon.  I would expect to see a few product lines slimmed down or outright dropped.  That makes it tough to justify buying so much from another company.  Dell needs a scalpel, not a sledgehammer.

Aerohive’s Aspirations

Aerohive is the best target for Dell.  They are clearly fighting for third place in the wireless market behind Cisco and Aruba.  Aerohive has never been shy about punching above their weight.  They have the mentality of a scrappy terrier that won’t go down without a fight.  But, they are getting pressure to expand quickly across their product lines.  They took their time releasing an 802.11ac access point.  Their switching offering hasn’t caught on in the same way that of Aruba or Meraki (now a division of Cisco).

Aerohive is on the verge of going public.  I’m sure the infusion of cash would allow them to pay off some early investors as well as fund more development for 802.11ac Phase 2 gear and maybe a firewall offering.  The risk comes when you look at what happened to Ruckus Wireless shortly after their IPO.  While they did recover, it didn’t look very good for a company that supposedly did have a unique claim, their antenna design.  Aerohive is a cloud management platform like many others in the market.  You have to wonder how investors would view them.  Scrappy doesn’t sell stock.

Aerohive is now fighting in the new Gartner “Wired and Wireless Access” magic quadrant, which is an absolute disaster for everyone.  An analyst firm thinks that wireless is just like wired, so naturally it makes sense for AP vendors to start making switches, right?  Except the people who are really brilliant when it comes to wireless, like Matthew Gast and Victor Shtrom couldn’t care less about bits on copper.  They’ve spent the better part of their careers solving the RF problems in the world.  And now someone tells them that interference problems aren’t that much different than spanning tree?  I would have long since planted my head permanently onto my desk if I’d been told that in their position.

Aerohive gains a huge backer in the fight if Dell acquires them.  They get the name to go up against Cisco/Meraki.  The gain R&D from Dell with expertise around cloud management.  They can start developing integration with HiveManager and Dell’s SMB extensive product line.  Switch supply becomes a thing of the past.  Their entire software offering fits well with what Dell is trying to accomplish from a device independence perspective with regards to customers.

Tom’s Take

I don’t put much stock in random rumors.  But I’ve heard this one come up enough to make me ask some tough questions.  There are people in both camps that think it will happen sometime in 2014.  Dell has to get the books sorted out and figure out who’s in charge of buying things.  Aerohive has to see if there’s enough juice left in the market to IPO and not look foolish.  Maybe Dell needs to run the numbers and find out what it would take to cash out Aerohive’s investors and add the company to the growing Empire of Round Rock.  A little buzz for the World’s Largest Startup couldn’t hurt.