Blog post

Coolness in Networking

By Andrew Lerner | April 23, 2014 | 1 Comment


Gartner’s Cool Vendors in Enterprise Communications published today in which Tim Zimmerman, Joe Skorupa and myself profile four “cool” vendors including Cumulus Networks, Nuage Networks, Pica8 and Plexxi and also revisit a former “cool” vendor, Aerohive.  So what does it mean to be considered “cool”?  Certainly, it is a somewhat subjective definition as evidenced by this picture.


My definition of “cool” is rather simple:  Coolness is the ability to help customers address challenges in new and innovative ways.  These challenges could be in terms of cost, management, agility, operations, etc.

Cumulus and Pica8 focus on switching software that can be run on top of physical switches, an approach called disaggregation.  Plexxi provides a programmable and self-learning switching fabric that dynamically configures inter-connectivity via an optical backbone ring, while Nuage provides an SDN overlay solution that nicely stitches the overlay/underlay together and cleanly extends beyond a single data center.

Unlike incumbant networking vendors, these guys are unencumbered by specific margins and/or a large installed-base (to protect) which allows them to look at things in a fresh manner; ultimately enabling them to tackle long-standing network problems in new and innovative ways.

Regards, Andrew

Side note:  Contrary to popular belief, that is not me in the photo although I’ve popped a collar or two in my day and do own sweater vests… Image courtesy of

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  • In case you missed it, check out Gartner’s Cool Vendors in China which includes a write-up on networking vendor, Centec. As identified by my colleague Evan Zeng, Centec provides silicon, switches and an OS (kind of like Broadcom + Pica8) and focuses on the Chinese market.

    Cool Vendors in China, 2014
    7 May 2014 | ID: G00262471