The 25 most powerful enterprise networking companies

by Jack @ UNIXPlus September 28, 2015

The bosses are here

It’s the 25 companies that have the biggest effects on how U.S.-based enterprise networks operate. They’re a diverse bunch – some make switches, others chips. Some are big carriers, others are big fish in little ponds. And plenty aren’t, technically speaking, networking companies at all. Nevertheless, these are our picks for the biggest influencers on the network.

To be clear, these ratings are subjective and in alphabetical order only – broadly speaking, we wanted to list companies that fell into one of three main groups: Up-and-comers with good technology, incumbents with big install bases, and companies that don’t necessarily do networking per se, but nevertheless have a major effect on enterprise networks. The list is based on discussions with a group of industry analysts and on our own institutional expertise. Enjoy.


A10 Networks

A 2014 IPO helped A10 raise more than $187 million, enabling the application delivery controller company to continue making inroads into U.S. markets. A10 has begun to focus heavily on security in recent months, and added a new aGalaxy 3.0 version in August that customers can use to manage A10’s enterprise DDoS protection gear in addition to its ADCs.


No longer just a content delivery network, Akamai is now a key part of the Web at large, serving between 15% and 30% of all the world’s Web traffic, according to Reuters. The company is also a major DDoS defense provider and stands to become even more important as businesses do more and more of their computing over the Internet.


You know that whole cloud thing that all the cool kids – and non-cool kids – are talking about? Yeah, Amazon is something of a big deal there. Your connection to all the workloads you’ve got running on AWS is likely a central concern, so like it or not, Amazon is a massive influence on your network.


Unless you’re using massive amounts of AirPorts in a role they were not meant to fulfill, Apple probably isn’t a vendor you deal with directly in your daily networking activities. But the company will continue to be a headache as long as people keep buying iPhones and iPads. Which, obviously, they will – but Apple has begun to make more direct moves in the direction of enterprise IT, with MDM features baked into the latest version of iOS, not to mention partnerships with the likes of IBM and Cisco.


Aggressively targeting both high-end data center infrastructure and more limited deployments, Arista is competing – successfully, no less – with Cisco itself, in the wake of a 2014 IPO. The company is the standard-bearer of the platform-agnostic, whitebox hardware revolution sweeping through the networking sector, and should continue to see its 9.3% share of the software-driven cloud market expand, according to analysts’ estimates provided to Barron’s.


AT&T is in the midst of a $14 billion three-year plan to expand and overhaul its network. With the company’s Next plan – which offers accelerated device upgrades to mobile subscribers – fueling even more rapid smartphone growth, the influx of personal devices into the enterprise could speed up as well. More to the point, AT&T is the biggest enterprise wireline ISP in the country, with about 42% of the sector, according to Telco 2.0.


Broadcom was bought up by Avago Technologies – a former HP division and itself a formidable silicon company – in May 2015 for a whopping $37 billion, but the combined company will be named Broadcom, Ltd. It’s easy to see why – Broadcom likes to boast that 99% of the world’s Internet traffic goes through at least one of the company’s chips. Whether that’s strictly true or not, Broadcom is a hugely important manufacturer of semiconductors for networking hardware.


Avaya, which claims to work with 95% of the Fortune 500, has come a long way since the days when you probably knew it primarily as the company that makes your desk phone. It’s a major player in the unified communications marketplace, battling with Cisco and Microsoft for supremacy, and has evolved to embrace SDN, with products that extend software-defined networking from the data center to the edge and branches.


Brocade’s a data center networking stalwart, and has broadened its influence by becoming a major contributor to OpenDaylight, the open-source SDN controller project, and incorporating it into its own product line. The company’s long-standing SAN business is also still going strong, underlined by the recent release of a new analytics monitoring platform for easier management.

Check Point

The world’s top enterprise firewall company – 23% market share, according to Gartner – isn’t exactly someone we could leave off this list, even if it’s being pushed hard by Palo Alto at the summit. Still, Check Point remains at the security forefront, making discoveries like that of the BrainTest Android malware.


There’s really not that much to say here, is there? The 800-pound gorilla of networking hasn’t been without its crosses to bear of late – malware problems, construction issues and so on – but it’s inarguably the single most powerful company in enterprise networking, hands-down, boasting massive install bases across several major product categories. This summer saw the company appoint new CEO Chuck Robbins, who talked up Cisco’s plans for distributed infrastructure, analytics and security improvements.


While Citrix is probably best known for its virtual desktop products, the company has fingers in a lot of networking pies. NetScaler is the “clear no. 2 ADC player,” according to a Gartner Magic Quadrant report, and XenMobile also ranked as a leader in the analysis firm’s most recent enterprise mobility management report. Citrix’s latest financial reports show the company’s enterprise and service provider profits on the rise in the second quarter of this year, up more than $30 million to a total of $167 million.


Since going private in 2013, the outlook for Dell has been largely positive – the company has shifted its focus from the loss-making PC business toward services, networking and software. Dell’s been among those at the forefront of the whitebox hardware movement, and its latest offerings have been well-reviewed by the experts.


F5 is the king of its own specific hill, the ADC market, and it’s been that way for years – Gartner has been putting the company on top of the ADC heap since 2005, and F5 continues to be generally recognized as the best in the business.


While it’s not a new company, having been founded in 2004, FireEye has only recently begun to grab headlines – it’s partnering with huge companies like Visa, booking increased sales, and has helped clean up after some of the biggest data breaches in recent memory, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal.


Even though Google creates its own hardware and software for internal use, you’re probably not going to be using its boxes or running its code anytime soon. However, as the de facto gateway to the Internet for vast numbers of users, and increasingly enthusiastic provider of a growing range of cloud services, you’re definitely going to be dealing with their data. Google Drive now boasts a million paying organizational clients, the company said this month.

HP (and Aruba)

HP’s acquisition of Aruba in May 2015 for $2.7 billion, essentially, put the latter company in charge of the former’s networking division, combining HP’s strengths in wired campus networking gear, to say nothing of its SDN and cloud portfolios, with Aruba’s widely admired wireless tech. The result is a combined entity that might even make Cisco a little nervous, particularly later this year, when the company splits off from the PC and printer divisions to become the more focused HP Enterprise.


The third-biggest server vendor in the world, even after selling off its x86 server business to Lenovo, isn’t at the center of the network these days. But IBM’s prominence around the edges of the cloud – Cloud Orchestrator, developerWorks, SoftLayer and so on – means that it’s still a major influencer. The company announced plans, earlier this year, to spend $4 billion on cloud, mobile and analytics – and that it expected to recoup 10 times that from the investment.


You could say we’re stretching a point here – Juniper is arguably a bigger carrier player than strictly an enterprise one – but it’s really a major player by almost any standard, teaming up with Aerohive for wireless expertise and maintaining its position as the third-biggest Ethernet switch vendor in the world, according to IDC.


While the growth in endpoints is mostly elsewhere, a huge proportion of the world’s end-user computing is still done on Microsoft machines. Couple that with growth in major cloud services like Office365 – according to identity management service Okta, O365 is the most-used cloud app to date, surpassing even Salesforce – and Microsoft still has some serious network effects.


Sitting atop the network performance management heap is NetScout, makers of the nGeniousONE NPM appliance. Like most of the specialists on the list, however, NetScout wants to broaden its horizons in this increasingly modular, automated networking environment, and the company has acquired DDoS protection vendor Arbor Networks, communications support provider Tektronix and parts of competitor Fluke Networks from Danaher Corporation in a $2.3 billion deal finalized this summer. NetScout’s avowed intent is to expand its offerings, in an attempt to replicate its success in large-scale network performance management.

Palo Alto

The challenger to Check Point’s champion, although some would say it’s the other way around – in any case, Palo Alto is either the No. 2 or No. 1 enterprise firewall company in the market right now, depending on whom you ask, and Seeking Alpha reports that its consumer base has grown by more than a third during the course of 2015.


Like F5, Riverbed is the king of its particular hill – in this case, WAN optimization. And although Riverbed continues to try and branch (get it) out, in the wake of a 2014 go-private deal, the company’s core business remains WAN optimization, for which it’s been recognized as a Gartner Magic Quadrant leader for eight straight years. The company “rebooted, reorganized and refocused,” Paul O’Farrell (SVP and General Manager of the SteelHead and SteelFusion business unit) told Network World recently, and its diversification saw it showing off APM solutions – provided in part by its 2012 acquisition of Opnet Technologies – at this year’s VMworld conference.


While it lags behind rival AT&T in terms of enterprise ISP market share in the U.S., it doesn’t lag by much – and by partnering with Cisco to offer an advanced new software-defined WAN service, Verizon could well be on its way to reversing the trend.


One of the companies most at the heart of the cloud revolution, VMware is still a central player in present-day enterprise computing. The virtualization pioneer’s management capabilities and diversified product offerings mean that you’ll be dealing with its effects on the network for some time to come. The company talked up its more than 700 customers for the NSX network virtualization platform at the latest VMworld conference.

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Jack @ UNIXPlus
Jack @ UNIXPlus