Inside Track - getting to know the vendors

Editorial Type: Interview Date: 11-2015 Views: 2,522 Tags: Networking PDF Version:
Ray Smyth reflects on his recent discussion with Derek Watkins, VP EMEA for Opengear

Without exception all vendors will confidently explain a clear market focus. Opengear is no exception, but I find their approach to be both different and interesting.

The centralised management of large data centre and communications environments is, reflects Derek, a decreasing market, but one where Opengear's share is increasing. Their real growth opportunity however comes from their remote management product range. This is an offer relevant to any organisation with three or more remote offices and defies vertical segmentation.

The benefit of remote network management is obvious, but without a reliable network connection it's impossible. This is where out-of-band (OoB) management adds real operational and business value. Derek opines that many products fall short; if a unit swap out is required then that site could be without connectivity until it’s complete, which is likely to compromise business operations.

Heavily influenced by the cloud, few organisations are building their own data centres and are instead turning to cloud (managed/hosted) service providers who drive the data centre demand. But it's the management of IT estate that is critical. According to Derek the network edge is moving outwards. He adds that, "If you imagine routers, firewalls and switches on the network edge but in remote offices, then you need to manage these assets as if they resided within the traditional perimeter."

I wanted to understand which aspects of the Opengear offering Derek considered to be unique. Firstly, he explained that it was the extensive product range, from the centralised console management solutions to the growing remote management portfolio. Then, innovations such as the built-in cellular modem, which can't be damaged or removed and which provides the OoB capability critical to reconfiguring and managing remote devices. But this is all about IT operations, which remotely situated employees don't care about - and it's here that the solution innovates further. Termed failover resilience, the cellular modem provides temporary network connectivity, effectively becoming the temporary in-band network for a location until normal service is restored.

The Opengear cellular modem is vendor (carrier) neutral, as is their ability to control (re-boot) and monitor any make of PDU and UPS. Additionally, all of their products can monitor environmental conditions including temperature, humidity, smoke and door status.

You can see that Opengear has been effective in understanding what is required and keeping it all very open. Derek explained the strong link between fog or edge computing and the Internet of Things (IoT) saying, "It comes down to two things: firstly processing and moving data and then managing devices, whether the primary network is running or not. Being able to resolve a problem at the edge will become more business critical as IoT establishes itself. It's a growing trend."

The OoB/failover capability benefits almost any business and Opengear are working in diverse environments. For example, NHS trusts with over 250 remote locations, moving patient data in real time; salmon farms that need to know when automatic feeders stop working so they can diagnose and resolve remotely, and a hanging router inside an ATM that is dispensing cash.

Derek explains that Opengear have a product road map that looks two-years ahead, adding that, "There have been a lot of false starts about the next big thing in networking, but we intend to do what we have always done: lead the market in what we do and remain highly focused on in-band and out-of-band management."

It seems certain that, however the network evolves, the need for network resilience will only grow - and this is where Opengear plan to remain strong. As has been shown repeatedly, the reputation of a business is built on dependable business services. NC