Exinda Sharpens Channel Chops for Midmarket WAN PUSH
Thanks to a few years of investment in both products and channel outreach, Exinda Networks is finally reaching what its CEO calls “critical mass” as it goes after a most lucrative networking opportunity: WAN optimization in the midmarket.
Exinda’s channel program was launched in January 2008 as the vendor hoped to attract more networking and infrastructure VARs interested in attractive price points. Two years later, said CEO Michael Sharma in a recent Channelweb.com interview, Exinda is stealing market share from competitors and is continuing to pull its best partners closer while attracting new ones.
“We have seen a retreat of some partners from our main competitor focused in this area,” said Sharma, referring to BlueCoat-owned Packeteer. “I’d love to tell you we’re doing a great job of recruitment, but we want to do a lot more of it. Exinda is going heavy into the education segment, but what we’re finding is a number of Packeteer resellers starting to check us out who aren’t just standalone education VARs, either.”
Many of the company’s partners focus on the education vertical, but Sharma sees significant opportunities in hospitality, health care and elsewhere. What’s been most important to growth, he said, was continued investment in its core products, which include the x700 line of WAN optimization tools and Service Delivery Point, a SaaS-based management tool for reporting on WAN appliances.
Advanced traffic shaping tools have been a more recent focus; the company in January released version 5.3 of its ExOs software, which now includes anonymous proxy detection. Exinda touts the tool as nontraditional WAN optimization offering, in that it falls outside the more standard Layer 4 visibility and Layer 7 deep packet inspection offerings seen in other packages.
Exinda in the fall also launched the Exinda 8760, the company’s most powerful WAN optimization appliance. Designed for high performance networking, the 8760 can support 100,000 users and offer scaleable throughput speed of 100 Mbps up to 5 Gbps.
The next release, slated for the coming months, said Sharma, will break the 10 Gbps barrier. Exinda isn’t exactly shy about comparing the 8760 to BlueCoat’s PacketShaper line, which scales to 1 Gbps.
“I’d say we’ve done a really good job making sure the product has evolved and developed,” Sharma said. “Frankly, we’ve got the critical mass now.”
More exposure has brought Exinda into closer competition with not only BlueCoat, but also other major players in the WAN optimization/acceleration space like Riverbed and, to a certain degree, Cisco.
That’s meant a push by Exinda to sharpen its message, Sharma said.
“Our competitive advantage is not that we do acceleration as good or better than a Riverbed. UPM [unified performance management] is our differentiation. We can offer traffic shaping and basic acceleration in one box,” he explained.
“The IT department of the midmarket end user will have one or two folks who take care of the networking environment,” Sharma continued. “They look for a product that’s easy to install. The midmarket is very much focused on total cost of ownership — they don’t want 100 features, they want the right features. When you compare us to the big enterprise guys, we’ve got 70 percent of the features they have. But when you ask our customers, we’ve got 100 percent of the features they need, and they’re not paying a 30 to 35 percent premium. Which would you take?”
“The engineering support that Exinda provides as part of pre-sales is pretty impressive. It’s almost unlimited engineering resources,” said Eric Lacy, senior client manager at DMC Technology Group, a Toledo, Ohio-based solution provider. “But overall it has more visibility. We had one education client where BitTorrent [the peer-to-peer downloading service] looked like a banking session to any appliance other than Exinda’s. That’s kids. Kids are smart enough to get around filters like Websense and go to proxy servers and that sort of thing. Exinda, however, could see all of it.”
In a roundabout way, Lacy can thank Cisco for his introduction to Exinda.
“We had a very large library exchange in Toledo,” he said. “They were having a lot of problems with their video setup and the engineering, and they asked us if we could find something other than Cisco WAAS [wide area application services]. Packeteer was the first thing that popped into my head, but we couldn’t go with that one because it was being pitched by a competitor. So Cisco was out and Packeteer was out. I typed ‘competition for Packeteer’ into a search browser — I literally did that — and Exinda popped up. I put in a request, they contacted me within 24 hours, we did a demo at the site within 48 horus and the system was bought in 2 weeks. It’s been a great relationship ever since.”
Name recognition is still what dogs Exinda, said Lacy and other VARs. Customers ready to buy WAN optimization appliances simply don’t know who they are.
“Most of the time, what helps us is by telling the customer that Exinda does everything that Packeteer does and it’s a better supported product with a brighter future,” Lacy said. “Exinda’s been great about helping us do 2-3 week trials, and by the end of that trial, the customer’s not worried about the name recognition anymore. They can see that it’s a good product at half the price of WAAS. There are a lot of pinched budgets out there, and I think IT directors and managers are willing to take some bigger risks than they were prior. They just can’t afford the Cisco stuff.”
Louis Droll, president of Microshare, a San Antonio-based solution provider, said Exinda had found an ideal focus with education thanks to the increasing traffic demands placed upon school systems.
“If you have busy bandwidth in K-12, it creates havoc all the way up,” Droll explained. “These IT guys have to make sure this data comes and goes without any encumberance. That’s what Exinda does. It’s a very easy-to-use interface and a good concept.”
He said the biggest difference between Exinda and BlueCoat/Packeteer — Droll called Packeteer the “HP of traffic shaping” — is that Packeteer hasn’t evolved its products fast enough.
“We don’t talk about ‘traffic shaping,’ because Packeteer kind of coined that term,” he said. “We talk about monitoring Internet bandwidth and a new generation of product that can do that. Packeteer is still a very good product, but what Exinda has over it is scalability and ease-of-use.”
Solution providers concur that Exinda’s channel program is strong, and even if its products don’t eclipse BlueCoat’s — and Exinda could still do more to market them better — they’ve certainly earned their stripes to contend.
Steve Inman, president of VistaOne, a Richmond, Va.-based solution provider, said he doesn’t push Exinda for enterprise deployments, but they’ve become a go-to for education customers. He championed Exinda’s engineering support and responsiveness.
“You can have the strongest margin out there, but if you don’t have the support — if you can’t support basic VAR needs — what are you?” he said. “They have a big marketing task in front of them, but I’m been impressed with their grasp of the scope of that marketing task.”