10 most powerful enterprise networking vendors in 2021

10 most powerful enterprise networking vendors in 2021

Here's our rundown of what makes these 10 vendors of network gear the biggest power players within the enterprise.

Credit: IDG

6. Palo Alto: From firewalls to a cloud-security platform

Why they’re here: The originator of the application-aware, next-generation firewall, Palo Alto has successfully broadened its scope through a parade of acquisitions over the past three years: cloud-security company RedLock, security-orchestration company Demisto, container-security company Twistlock, serverless-security startup PureSec, IoT start-up Zingbox, micro-segmentation company Aporeto, and SD-WAN company CloudGenix.

Palo Alto has integrated those acquisitions into a broad cloud-security platform called Prisma Cloud that addresses security throughout the application lifecycle. And it has leveraged the CloudGenix acquisition to become a leader in SASE, according to Gartner.

Power Moves: In November, Palo Alto Networks announced its intent to acquire attack-surface management vendor Expanse for $800 million. And in February, Palo Alto bought cloud-security company Bridgecrew.

By the numbers: $800 million. The amount Palo Alto paid for Expanse.

Outlook: Palo Alto is well positioned to build on its popular core firewall business with revenue from fast-growing areas like SD-WAN, SASE, and cloud security. The company is also successfully shifting to a subscription model, with its firewall-as-a-service offering.

And most recently it boosted its Zero Trust offering with a Cloud Identity Engine that allows customers to authenticate and authorise users across enterprise networks, clouds, and applications. The strategy seems to be paying off: Revenue grew 24 per cent year-over-year in the quarter ended on April 30 to hit $1.07 billion.

7. Fortinet: A broad platform for security/networking convergence

Why they’re here: The confluence of security and networking has been the perfect storm for Fortinet. The company has leveraged its homegrown product lines of next generation firewalls, anti-virus, SD-WAN, Ethernet switching, and wireless gear to grab a power position in SASE, Zero Trust and cloud management.

Gartner says Fortinet catapulted from niche player to visionary in its latest Magic Quadrant for wired and wireless LAN infrastructure with its “security-focused, full-branch/campus network stack of wired, wireless, security, and edge networking.” Gartner also cites Fortinet’s improvements in its automation of network security and IoT management.

Power Moves: Fortinet recently bought OPAQ Networks, which has a Zero Trust network-access cloud offering.

By the numbers: $34 million. What Fortinet paid for Panopta, whose tools automate the management of servers, containers, applications, databases, cloud infrastructure, and virtual appliances.

Outlook: Brothers Ken and Michael Xie founded Fortinet nearly 20 years ago and are still at the helm; Ken is CEO and Michael is President and CTO. Their steady leadership and foresight has enabled Fortinet to purpose-build its products so they integrate into platforms like the Fortinet security fabric and the Fortinet cloud-management system, which can all be run from a single console.

In its latest quarter, Fortinet announced strong results, with total revenue up 23 per cent year-over-year to $710 million. It should be noted that this spring the FBI issued a warning that hackers had successfully exploited vulnerabilities in the Fortinet OS. In response, Fortinet noted that the vulnerability was an old one, and urged customers to update their software to the latest version.

8. Juniper Networks: Embedding AI throughout its product lines

Why it’s here: One of the handful of original networking vendors still standing, Juniper is making aggressive moves to transition to growth areas like SASE, artificial intelligence, SD-WAN, wireless, and intent-based networking.

Juniper is having success leveraging its 2019 purchase of wireless innovator Mist Systems and rolling out products that take advantage of Mist’s AI capabilities across data centre, cloud, and hybrid environments.

Gartner says Juniper is a visionary in WAN-edge infrastructure with “a comprehensive solution including solid capabilities with SD-WAN, operations, deployment flexibility and strong security.” And Juniper is a leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for wired- and wireless-LAN access infrastructure based on its AI-driven technology.

Power Moves: In January, Juniper bought intent-based networking (IBN) pioneer Apstra and its Apstra Operating System.

By the Numbers: $450 million: What Juniper paid in December to acquire 128 Technology, which offers intelligent routing software that reduces the cost of running SD-WAN and WANs.

Outlook: No question that Juniper has struggled over the past several years to offset declines in service-provider revenues. Juniper’s annual revenue hit $4.8 billion in 2015 and was only $4.45 billion in 2020. But analysts say that Juniper may have turned the corner. Juniper reported an eight per cent increase in revenue in its latest quarter.

And the infusion of new technologies and new talent from the recent acquisitions provide Juniper with opportunities to take leadership positions in areas like data centre automation, SASE, open networking, SD-WAN, and artificial intelligence.

9. Nvidia: Banking on AI in enterprise data centres and hoping for regulatory approval of Arm deal

Why they’re here: An innovator and longtime power player in the gaming world, Nvidia wants to be a leader in the deployment of AI in enterprise data centres. Nvidia made two major acquisitions last year--purchasing smart-switch maker Mellanox for $6.9B and open-source networking OS vendor Cumulus.

The moves gave Nvidia a full-stack offering from high-performance graphics processors to a software platform upon which to build industry-specific AI-powered applications. Nvidia has also partnered with key industry vendors like VMware and RedHat to make sure its GPUs are integrated across a wide range of platforms.

Power Moves: As if those key acquisitions weren’t enough, Nvidia in September announced the blockbuster purchase of Arm Ltd., which doesn’t produce chips itself, but licenses its microprocessor technology to major computer hardware and smartphone OEMs.

By the numbers: $40 billion: The amount that Nvidia is paying for Arm.

Outlook: Nvidia is well positioned to cash in the momentum toward using AI in data centre, cloud and edge scenarios. However, opposition to the Arm deal seems to be intensifying, throwing into question whether regulators will approve the deal. Google, Microsoft, and Qualcomm have objected, raising concerns about whether they will continue to have equal access to Arm technology after the acquisition closes.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has opened an investigation, and in April, the UK (where Arm is headquartered) announced plans for its own probe of whether the deal endangers the country’s national security.

On top of that, Nvidia needs approval from China, where Arm’s owner SoftBank is located, and trade relations between the U.S. and China are pretty frosty these days. In any event, Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang remains confident that he can navigate the regulatory hurdles and get the deal approved.

10. Dell Technologies: Shedding assets, focusing on data centre modernisation

Why they’re here: With mercurial Michael Dell at the helm, the company is never predictable. First, it shelled out $67 billion to buy EMC, which owned VMware. Now, it's spinning off VMware in order to collect around $9.5B, which will be used to help pay down the debt that was incurred when it bought the company in the first place.

According to Michael Dell, the move is good for both companies in that each will gain some level of  independence. He says Dell’s focus going forward is on data centre modernisation, its growing PC business, and building an open ecosystem for hybrid and private cloud, edge, 5G, telecom and data management. Dell also wants to be a leader in the IT-as-a-service market with its APEX initiative.

Power Moves: In addition to the VMware spin-off, Dell is selling its Boomi data integration software business to a private equity firm.

By the numbers: $4 billion: The amount that Dell gets for Boomi, money that is expected to help pay down debt.

Outlook: Will the VMware spinoff actually change anything or is it just an accounting trick? That remains to be seen. After all, Michael Dell will continue to be VMware's chairman. And VMware has signed a five-year commercial agreement to work together with Dell on hyper-convergence technology and to share sales teams and financial services, so that's not a clean break.

In any event, this was certainly not a fire sale. Both companies are doing well and expect to do even better in the future. Dell has assembled a powerful line-up of servers, storage and networking products, which it has aggregated into the market leading hyper-converged system at 32.6 per cent market share, according to IDC.

In its latest quarter, Dell reported that its Infrastructure Solutions Group had revenue of $7.9 billion, up five per cent; servers and networking revenue was $4.1 billion, up nine per cent, while storage revenue was flat. Operating income in the segment was $788 million, up eight per cent.

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