The 10 most powerful companies in enterprise networking

Enterprises recognize that all of the new technologies they want to deploy – IoT, edge computing, serverless, containers, hybrid cloud, and AI – require a robust, flexible, secure, self-healing, software-driven network. And the industry has responded with fresh new approaches such as software-defined networking (SDN), SD-WAN, hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) and intent-based networking.

Our list of the 10 most powerful companies in enterprise networking includes the traditional networking powerhouses, with an emphasis on the extent to which they’ve embraced these new approaches. In addition, we’re recognizing pure-play market leaders in areas such as wireless networking, HCI and SD-WAN.


Why they’re here: Cisco’s domination in enterprise networking has been longstanding and undeniable: According to Gartner, Cisco has 100,000 data center networking customers, compared to 5,000 for Juniper and 3,000 for Arista. Cisco revenue in 2018 hit $49.3 billion, compared to $4.6 billion for Juniper and $2.15 billion for Arista.   

Cisco is often described as the “800-pound gorilla,” but that image of a behemoth stomping its competition through brute force doesn’t give Cisco enough credit for its solid leadership, its ability to successfully integrate strategic acquisitions, and its skill in protecting its flanks against all comers.

Wireless networking? Cisco’s got it covered. Between its homegrown Aironet line and its Meraki acquisition, Cisco is No.1 in global market share at 44%, according to IDC. SD-WAN? Check. Cisco bought Vipela in 2017 and is now the market share leader in SD-WAN infrastructure. HCI? Cisco shows up in the “leader” category in Gartner’s latest magic quadrant for HCI. Intent-based networking? All over it. Cisco has been touting intent-based networking since 2017 and has been methodically rolling out intent-based offerings either integrated within products like Catalyst 9000 switches or aligned with specific use cases like IoT or SD-WAN.

Recent power moves: Cisco bought semiconductor company Luxtera, which uses silicon photonics to build optics capabilities for webscale and enterprise data centers. And Cisco signed a partnership agreement with Amazon Web Services that will enable enterprises to extend their Cisco ACI on-premises infrastructures to the AWS cloud.

By the numbers: 1.87 million. That’s the number of students in 180 countries participating in the Cisco Networking Academy in fiscal 2018.

Outlook: Cisco has diversified its revenue streams to applications (AppDynamics and WebEx) and continues to successfully fend off its networking competitors. The larger existential threat comes from the “data center is dead” movement, which predicts that enterprise data centers will become extinct as companies transition to the cloud.

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Why they’re here: They say any publicity is good publicity, and there’s nothing that gets a company noticed like getting indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice for allegedly stealing trade secrets, and having its CFO arrested and detained in Canada, sparking an international incident. The political kerfuffle between the U.S. and China has effectively eliminated Huawei from the U.S. enterprise data center market, which is good news for Cisco. At this point, the question is whether Huawei is a regional powerhouse limited to China, where it derives a good 60% of its revenue, or a legitimate global threat to Cisco in areas like Europe and the rest of Asia. Huawei has the broad product portfolio, the size and the ambition to give Cisco a run for its money outside of the U.S. For example, IDC pegs Huawei’s global market share in Ethernet switching at around 10%, on 20% growth in 2018. That puts Huawei in second place behind Cisco’s 53%. On the other hand, Gartner estimates that less than 2% of Huawei’s installed base of data networking customers is headquartered in North America, and IDC says Huawei’s switching market share in the U.S. is so small the company get lumped into the “others” category.

Recent power moves: These days, most of Huawei’s power moves are political, rather than technological. The most recent power move was convincing the UK to allow Huawei to build out parts of its 5G wireless networks, defying U.S. demands for a blanket ban on the Chinese tech giant.

By the numbers: 40 and 70,000. Huawei has signed 40 commercial contracts with leading global carriers for 5G and has shipped more than 70,000 5G base stations.

Outlook: Huawei is a global juggernaut when it comes to consumer items like smartphones, and it has positioned itself as a leader in 5G. But its outlook in enterprise networking is muddy and depends, to a large extent, on whether it will remain a pariah in the U.S. market or whether Huawei can convince the U.S. government and U.S. companies that its gear does not contain backdoors that allow the Chinese government to conduct espionage activities.

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Why they’re here: With a market share of around 6.5% in data center Ethernet switches, limited geographic coverage, and a limited product line that doesn’t extend to SD-WAN, HCI, or even WLAN until very recently, it would be easy to put Arista in the category of just another networking niche also-ran. But Arista’s singular focus on Cisco’s jugular and its impressive annual growth in the 30% range have made Arista a Wall Street darling. Arista has positioned itself as an innovator and somewhat of a maverick. For example, Arista has shunned the intent-based networking label and says it offers something better – a network based on cognitive computing.

Recent power moves: Arista bought Mojo Networks in order to finally enter the WLAN market, and it acquired Metamako, a leader in low-latency network solutions.

By the numbers: $400 million. Arista paid that amount to Cisco to settle their longstanding and bitter legal disputes over patents and copyrights.

Outlook: Putting the legal tussle with Cisco in the rearview mirror can only be good news for Arista. There’s no way to gauge how many potential customers were turned off by the lawsuit hanging over Arista’s head, but that impediment has been cleared away. On the other hand, Arista does face some headwinds in the form of its biggest cloud customers possibly scaling back their purchases of Arista switches and building their own white-box versions. For example, Microsoft accounted for 16% of Arista’s sales in 2018, but Arista recently told analysts that it anticipates Microsoft sales will slip to 10% in 2019.

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Why they’re here: Juniper has been battling Cisco for more than 20 years, and while Juniper never seems to gain market share, the company is still standing, still competing and still innovating.  Juniper’s products are technologically advanced, it has a broad portfolio, and it serves as an attractive alternative to Cisco for companies concerned about vendor lock-in. The Forrester Wave for SDN hardware platforms puts Juniper in the leader category, neck and neck with Arista, while Cisco lags behind. Juniper has traditionally been stronger in service provider markets than the enterprise. It has enterprise offerings in SD-WAN, security and cloud management and orchestration, but not HCI.

Recent power moves: A big hole in Juniper’s lineup has been its lack of a homegrown WLAN product. Juniper addressed that issue in March when it bought Mist Systems, a leader in wireless networking with a focus on AI-based analytics.

By the numbers: 7. In Juniper’s latest quarterly earnings report, revenues fell 7% year-over-year to $1B and profits also fell 7% year-over-year.

Outlook: Sometimes it looks like Juniper is just treading water, but the company’s Mist acquisition may provide a spark going forward. For example, Juniper just announced a new cloud-based SD-WAN service that integrates with the Mist technology.

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Why they’re here: Virtualization powerhouse VMware doesn’t make routers or switches, but it is a force to be reckoned with in data center networking software, SD-WAN and HCI. Gartner puts VMware in its “visionary” category for data center networking, crediting VMware with more than 4,500 customers running the NSX network virtualization platform, about half deploying NSX to take advantage of its microsegmentation capabilities. VMware bought SD-WAN vendor VeloCloud and is now a power player in SD-WAN. And VMware’s software-based HCI offering, which can be deployed on a variety of x86 platforms, is also a market leader.

Recent power moves: VMware announced plans to acquire Kubernetes pioneer Heptio, which will help VMware customers deploy Kubernetes in multi-cloud environments.

By the numbers: $23.9 billion. That’s the amount of money Dell paid in late 2018 to buy back the VMware tracking stock that it created when Dell bought EMC in 2016.

Outlook: VMware is doing an excellent job leveraging its relationship with server virtualization customers in order to position itself as a vendor that can help companies migrate to hybrid cloud environments. Its relationship with Dell is also having a positive impact, especially in areas like HCI where both companies have popular offerings.

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Why they’re here: Long-time WAN optimization vendor Silver Peak pivoted quickly to SD-WAN and “has demonstrated a strong market understanding by delivering SD-WAN products well ahead of other established WAN edge vendors,” according to Gartner. Silver Peak has a unique position in the rapidly changing SD-WAN competitive field. Cisco bought Viptela and VMware acquired VeloCloud, and Oracle bought Talari, which leaves Silver Peak and Aryaka as the top independent SD-WAN players.

Recent power moves: Equity firm TCV recently announced it was providing Silver Peak with a $90 million cash infusion, which the company plans to use to fuel future growth.

By the numbers: 4.5 billion. IDC predicts that the SD-WAN market will grow at a rate of 40% through 2022, reaching $4.5 billion.

Outlook: With $90 million in the bank and a strong product offering in one of fastest growing markets in networking, Silver Peak is well positioned for strong growth.

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Why they’re here: Aryaka has surged into the top tier of SD-WAN vendors with its fully managed SD-WAN network-as-a-service offering that runs on its own global private network. IHS Markit puts Aryaka at 12% market share, trailing only Cisco at 14% and VMware at 20%. Not bad for a relative newcomer to the enterprise networking scene.

Recent power moves: Aryaka recently brought in a new CEO to take the company to the next level. CEO Matt Carter, formerly of Inteliqent and Sprint, has moved quickly to hire a new executive team with the goal of making Aryaka a more aggressive competitor.

By the numbers: 800/63. Aryaka says it has 800 customers in 63 countries.

Outlook: Aryaka has separated itself a bit from the pack of SD-WAN pure-play vendors. And with the market exploding, it would be hard for Aryaka not to grow at a pretty impressive clip. Longer term, an IPO might be in the cards for Aryaka or it could get swooped up by a larger company.

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Why they’re here: Aruba has been on an interesting journey. The company established itself as a leader in the WLAN market, carving out a 15% market share, which puts it second only to Cisco. Aruba was bought by HP in 2015 and shortly thereafter, when HP split into two companies, Aruba inherited HP’s networking arm. Aruba has taken the opportunity, run with it, and is emerging as a power player in both wired and wireless networking.

Recent power moves: Aruba has made strong moves to enter the SD-WAN, cloud-based network management and IoT markets.

By the numbers: 3 billion. When HP bought Aruba for $3 billion, Aruba was a $1 billion company. Four years later, with HPE’s networking business in the fold, Aruba is now a $3 billion company.

Outlook: Aruba has shown that it understands where the enterprise networking market is headed and continues to innovate in emerging areas like IoT, edge, SD-WAN, cloud-based management, and machine learning and AI-based analytics.

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Why they’re here: HCI is an exciting and fast-growing area, and Nutanix is the undisputed leader, according to the experts at Gartner and Forrester, both of which put Nutanix in a power position ahead of all competitors. As Forrester puts it: “Nutanix has maintained its position atop the HCI market with its innovation, R&D investment, strong sales momentum, partnerships, and acquisition of new customers from all segments and geographies.” 

Recent power moves: Nutanix just announced a partnership with Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) in which HPE will offer Nutanix HCI software as a managed private cloud service and on HPE-branded appliances.

By the numbers: 12,410. That’s the total number of Nutanix customers, as of the February earnings report, including 68 companies on the Forbes 100 list and 760 companies on the Global 2000 list.




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Outlook: Sometimes the company that’s viewed as the innovator in a new market gets overtaken by the established vendors, and that might be happening with Nutanix. IDC breaks down the HCI market into two categories, one based on the owner of the software and the other based on the brand of HCI. VMware has 38% market share in HCI systems based on the owner of the software, compared to 30% for Nutanix, while Dell EMC leads the pack in branded HCI systems with 29% market share, compared to 15% for Nutanix. Since Dell and VMware have made it clear they are teaming up to bolster their HCI offerings, they pose a significant threat. And let’s not forget that Cisco jumped into the HCI game in 2016 and is picking up momentum. In financial terms, Nutanix has hit a rough patch as it transitions to an all-software product stack. In February, the company announced a loss of 23 cents a share.

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Why they’re here: Dell is a household name for its laptops and PCs, but Dell has stitched together a comprehensive networking portfolio that includes its own switching product line, wireless access points from Ruckus and Aerohive, SD-WAN from VMware, and its own market leading HCI offering. Dell is also big in the open networking arena, working cooperatively with innovative switching newcomers like Big Switch Networks, Cumulus Networks, and Pluribus Networks.

Recent power moves: Dell just announced a tightly integrated Dell-VMware consumption-based, data center-as-a-service offering that extends VMware’s Cloud to Dell EMC hardware.

By the numbers: $20 billion. Dell reported annual revenue from its servers and networking division at $20 billion in 2018, up an impressive 28%.

Outlook: Michael Dell, speaking at the company’s annual tech show in late April, said he was bullish on the company’s ability to combine the innovations of Dell EMC, VMware and the Pivotal application development environment to help customers move to multi-cloud environments.

This story, “The 10 most powerful companies in enterprise networking” was originally published by

Network World.

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