Magic Quadrant for Data Center Networking

24 April 2014 ID:G00262141
Analyst(s): Mark Fabbi, Tim Zimmerman, Andrew Lerner


Data center networking requirements have evolved rapidly, with emerging technologies increasingly focused on supporting more automation and simplified operations in virtualized data centers. We focus on how vendors are meeting the emerging requirements of data center architects.

Market Definition/Description

This document was revised on 2 May 2014. The document you are viewing is the corrected version. For more information, see the Corrections page on

Data center networking requirements are evolving rapidly after a period of architectural stability that lasted at least 15 years. While speed, density and scale increased during that period, the underlying architecture relied on an oversubscribed three-tier hierarchical approach — using server access switches, an aggregation layer and an intelligent Layer 3 switching core.

Today, the data center network market is being transformed with new architectures, technologies and vendors specifically targeting solutions to address:

  • The increasing requirement to improve and simplify network operations activities to align more closely with business goals and broader data center orchestration agility
  • The changing size and density within the data center
  • Shifts in application traffic patterns

What's Changed?

During the past 12 months, there has been a significant amount of change in the data center networking market. There are several acquisitions that have been undertaken and/or are in progress, involving Alcatel-Lucent, IBM, Extreme Networks and Enterasys Networks. In addition, many of the vendors included in this Magic Quadrant announced or released major components of their software-defined networking (and related technology) strategies, while others made significant enhancements to existing software-defined networking (SDN) offerings. Also, many of the vendors now use merchant-based silicon within significant portions of their switching portfolios. As a result, the differentiation between vendor solutions is now relatively balanced between software (management, provisioning, automation and orchestration) and hardware (bandwidth, capacity and scalability).

There has been a significant increase in interest from Gartner clients in the broad capabilities and open interfaces delivered via SDN. Search volume for SDN on is now higher than searches for MPLS, WAN optimization, application delivery controller and router (see "Gartner Analytics Trends: Interest Is Gaining Momentum for Software-Defined Networking"). Interest in these SDN technologies is now shifting from Type A Gartner clients to Type B (see Note 1), who often cite the following drivers when exploring SDN and related technologies:

  • Faster provisioning of workloads in the data center
  • Improved management and visibility
  • Improved traffic engineering or capacity optimization of their networks
  • Reduced expenditures on networking hardware/software
  • Reduced operational expenditures to operate networks
  • Improved application performance
  • Reduced vendor lock-in at the hardware and software layers

SDN provides several different approaches to deliver a more agile network infrastructure. Rather than completely rearchitecting the physical network, software-centric overlay technologies are emerging as a frequent discussion point with network designers and data center architects (see "VMware's NSX Could Be a Small Step or Giant Leap for VMware" [Note: This document has been archived; some of its content may not reflect current conditions.]). Several vendors included in this Magic Quadrant provide overlay network capabilities, which typically integrate the provisioning of network and compute resources for a more agile infrastructure. While this is an important development, it is also important to consider how various overlay solutions are implemented, as the overlay is still fully dependent on a physical underlay network, and issues of network control and visibility are critical to ensure the reliability of overlay solutions.

What Is Required in New Data Center Networks?

During the past several years, several factors have significantly impacted data center networking hardware and software requirements. First, data center networks must address an increased business appetite for faster and catalog-/service-based delivery of IT services. This is driven by increasingly real-time business requirements and the availability of viable options outside of traditional corporate IT (i.e., infrastructure as a service [IaaS] for compute, and SaaS for applications). This has exposed suboptimal network operations paradigms (including static and manual provisioning and configuration activities), which increase time-to-delivery services, lower network availability, increase operational expenditures and make it increasingly difficult to scale the environment. In addition, there is a need to address an increasing disconnect between the performance, availability and provisioning needs of existing applications running on the data center network.

Second, the size and density of data centers are changing, with several macrolevel trends driving both the expansion and contraction of data centers:

  • Server and data center consolidation require IT organizations to centralize compute resources and reduce the number of physical data centers, resulting in fewer, but larger, corporate data centers.
  • Increasing compute density using multicore, multisocket servers, combined with virtualization and storage convergence, is reducing the physical footprint required. Workloads that used to take multiple racks of servers are now being delivered within a portion of a single rack.
  • The migration of applications toward external cloud services also reduces the space requirements within the corporate data center.
  • Application traffic patterns are shifting from predominantly user-to-application (north/south) to both user-to-application and application-to-application (north/south and east/west). In addition, these traffic flows become less predictable with time as automated provisioning tools and general maintenance activities result in a more randomized distribution of workloads.

While new technology and business model innovation is critical, vendors also need to be concerned with providing migration plans from currently deployed architectures to the new ones. The increasing density drives the need for higher-speed interfaces. New server connections are now typically 10 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE), with uplinks from top of rack (ToR) or blade switches migrating to 40GbE. The use of server virtualization drives the first level of workload aggregation into the physical server host (usually at a 10:1 ratio or higher), which leads to higher network utilization for traffic exiting the physical server network interface card (NIC). This significantly reduces the need for additional dedicated physical aggregation layers in the network infrastructure. In addition, enterprises are increasingly evaluating more cost-effective and rightsized data center networks with fixed-form-factor core switches (see "Rightsizing the Enterprise Network").

Application Changes

Applications have become more distributed, increasingly independent from specific servers and more elastic in their deployment. With no physical dependency on network connections, it is more difficult to specify network requirements, which is the leading driver toward integrating storage gateway capabilities into the ToR or blade switch. Also, newer applications like big data have more stringent bandwidth, latency and interface buffer requirements than traditional applications. In addition, the increasing requirement to efficiently deal with east-west traffic has resulted in new approaches, including higher-performance, low-latency ToR switches; the emergence of one- or two-tier physical switching architectures; the increasing use of fixed-form-factor core switches; and more intelligence and traffic forwarding at the server access layer (through the use of virtual chassis or chassis clustering solutions). All these approaches improve server-to-server performance and, in some cases, evolve the data center network toward providing a homogeneous set of capabilities for all connected compute resources.

Long-Term Innovation and Choice

Beyond being seen as the solution for today's network operations challenges, SDN and related technologies offer an opportunity for transformational change within the networking marketplace. The decoupling of hardware and software represents the potential for a fundamental improvement in how networks are designed, procured, managed and evolved. The potential for long-term innovation that could emerge with an open SDN-based marketplace is clearly disruptive to today's hardware-centric model. Modern data center solutions can take advantage of significantly streamlined and custom-built data center software images. This approach should lead to a more efficient and reliable data center infrastructure (see "It's Time to Rethink Your Data Center Network Software"). It also results in increased customer options, with opportunities to decouple hardware and software purchases, as illustrated by announcements from vendors such as Cumulus and Pica8, running on commodity switching solutions (see "Dell and Cumulus Networks Aim to Take 'BYO Switching' Mainstream"). We have described an environment that has undergone substantial change and that offers the opportunity to deliver networking capabilities in very different, more agile and cost-effective ways.

Magic Quadrant

Figure 1. Magic Quadrant for Data Center Networking
Figure 1.Magic Quadrant for Data Center Networking

Source: Gartner (April 2014)

Vendor Strengths and Cautions


Alcatel-Lucent offers a range of data networking solutions, from rightsized, fixed-form-factor fabrics, to scalable chassis solutions, as well as an SDN overlay solution via its Nuage Networks group. However, on 6 February 2014, Alcatel-Lucent announced its intent to sell an estimated 85% interest in its enterprise business to China Huaxin, which plans increased investments in the business, which is a positive sign. However, this could be problematic for Alcatel-Lucent's data center business, as its assets will be split between this new endeavor and its Nuage Networks SDN overlay solution, which will remain with Alcatel-Lucent. We believe these approaches should be considered in isolation. On the enterprise business side, the Application Fluent Network strategy delivers differentiation through application visibility, fingerprinting and performance monitoring for small to large enterprise solutions, with growing support for OpenFlow-enabled switches.

The Nuage Networks SDN overlay solution is based on Alcatel-Lucent's carrier Internet Protocol (IP) code and supports innovative multisite and underlay integration capabilities. As further details of the China Huaxin deal become public, midsize to large enterprises in appropriate regions should consider the enterprise solutions for their data centers. Large enterprises wanting to take advantage of SDN overlay solutions should evaluate the Nuage Networks SDN solution.

  • Alcatel-Lucent's Application Fluent Network is a solid strategy providing a data center fabric that can be deployed with a pair of ToR switches or can be scaled linearly to thousands of ports while focusing on performance, scalability and elasticity.
  • The Nuage Networks solution is a well-thought-out SDN overlay that can span geographically dispersed data centers and offers an integrated overlay/underlay/WAN solution across standards-compliant networks. Based on Alcatel-Lucent's proven carrier-class routing software, the base technology offers strong interoperability with many different network environments, including the vendor's data center switching portfolio.
  • The Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise strategy does not lock enterprises into a vendor-specific solution and presents a cost-effective approach for many data center architectures. Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise also continues to work with the OpenStack initiative, and works with QLogic for bare metal server automated provisioning.
  • User network profiles (UNPs) and Virtual Network Profiles (vNP) can integrate data center policy as part of Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise's Application Fluent Network, where these components not only provide zero touch provisioning, but also provide application profiling that allows the enterprise to recognize and treat applications according to defined policies. This functionality allows enterprises to discover and treat application flows based on their L4-L7 content across the fabric.
  • The pending sale of Alcatel-Lucent's enterprise assets splits its data center networking investments, and organizations should evaluate the enterprise business solutions independent from Nuage Networks.
  • Alcatel-Lucent continues to have solid capabilities, but limited marketing communications, in terms of company visibility, messaging and differentiation, which means that it is not considered for all potential opportunities in its target markets and geographies. The potential investments from China Huaxin may help in this area.
  • While Alcatel-Lucent has expanded its resources and support to target geographies such as North America, enterprises should vet local support and investments as details of the China Huaxin deal become available.

Arista Networks

Arista Networks is a newer market entrant, with growing market share and a data center switching portfolio that can meet the needs of nearly all organizations. The vendor specializes in data center networking with a focus on price/performance, which has allowed it to establish a foothold in the service provider and financial services verticals. More recently, it has started to expand its focus to the broader enterprise market. As of 3Q13, Arista is the market leader in 40GbE port shipments (with a 28.8% share), and is garnering increasing interest from Gartner clients. During the past 12 months, the vendor has released several solutions to better penetrate the mainstream, including new switch platforms, new features in its switch operating system and integration with VMware NSX. The new 7300X switch and "spline" architecture is particularly compelling for organizations with fewer than 1,000 physical devices in their data center. Arista should be considered for all data center network opportunities in North America and Western Europe.

  • The vendor shows up on a growing percentage of client shortlists and is often the price/performance leader in these competitive scenarios.
  • Arista EOS pioneered the concept of open and programmable switching, and the vendor's full switch portfolio supports open APIs, orchestration tools (such as Puppet, Chef and CFEngine), and integration with leading cloud management platforms CMPs. This is compelling for customers who are looking for automated or zero-touch network provisioning.
  • Arista's performance and feature capabilities are well-suited for performance-intensive workloads, such as high-frequency trading, high-performance computing and big data.
  • The vendor is well-positioned as the networking market matures, with programmable switches that support VXLAN and plans to support OpenFlow 1.3, combined with a strong ecosystem of partners, including F5, Palo Alto Networks, Riverbed, EMC, Microsoft and VMware.
  • Arista provides embedded network packet brokering (NPB) capability in its switches, which can alleviate the need for dedicated NPB purchases while driving down overall capital expenditure (capex).
  • Arista's ability to scale its support programs to a global mainstream enterprise installed base is unproven.
  • Although growing, the vendor's existing enterprise installed base is limited; therefore, there are a limited number of networking personnel and channels with Arista experience, which can hinder deployments.
  • Arista is the only vendor that does not provide peripheral infrastructure services (e.g., compute, storage and unified communications [UC]) or related network services (wireless LAN [WLAN], campus, WAN), which may deter organizations that prefer to limit the number of vendors in their environments.
  • Arista is reliant on merchant silicon vendors for its switch platforms, which could potentially limit the vendor's turnaround time for delivering products to customers.


Avaya has limited market share in data center networking, with approximately 1% of revenue, but continues to invest in its networking portfolio. Avaya's Fabric Connect architecture supports the data center requirements for most organizations. During the past 12 months, the vendor has added multicast capabilities across its Ethernet fabric, and has released the VSP 4000 switch, which extends the Fabric Connect architecture beyond the data center into campus and branch environments as well. Although we currently see a strong corporate commitment to data networking, there are long-term concerns, given the vendor's waning influence in the data networking market. Organizations with existing Avaya UC or data center solutions, or those that require large-scale multicast solutions, should consider Avaya.

  • Avaya's architecture can efficiently deliver large-scale multicast solutions, supporting the most intensive multicast use cases and requirements.
  • The vendor has a large installed base of data center networking solutions, with a strong history of providing highly resilient data center network architectures
  • Avaya's switches deliver enhanced monitoring capability for Avaya UC deployments, and the Avaya Collaboration Pod is compelling for organizations that desire a turnkey, integrated UC solution.
  • Avaya's Fabric Connect architecture extends beyond the data center to the campus and branch, providing a unified and simplified enterprisewide network solution.
  • Avaya switches do not currently support emerging SDN capabilities (such as OpenFlow and VXLAN), which is concerning for organizations that want to leverage the potential benefits and innovation that SDN can bring to the market. Instead, the vendor has focused on end-to-end network virtualization based on its Fabric Connect architecture, coupled with OpenStack orchestration.
  • Avaya has limited and declining market share, was not cited as a competitive threat by any other vendor included in this Magic Quadrant, and appears less often on customer shortlists, compared with other vendors in the market.
  • There are a limited number of networking personnel and channels familiar with Avaya's newer products and architectures, compared with leading vendors.


Brocade's data center networking strategy focuses on the ability to provide an open, automated and efficient data center network infrastructure. Brocade VDX 6700 Series and VDX 8700 Series fabric-enabled switches provide the core components for deploying Brocade's VCS architecture in a hierarchical, leaf, and spine or mesh topology. The VCS fabric solution fully automates all link and switch additions to the fabric. During the last 12 months, the vendor launched a VCS Gateway for VMware's NSX, and VCS Virtual Fabric within the VDX switch family to address multitenant requirements. Brocade also expanded the VDX ToR portfolio with the VDX 6740 family of 10GbE/40GbE switches, and launched the Vyatta 5600 vRouter. Brocade's VCS solution is gaining noticeable traction, but its overall data center networking portfolio is growing at roughly market rates. Limited marketing means that its brand does not get the exposure that could assist in the vendor being added to more shortlists. Consider Brocade for your shortlists for enterprise data center solutions and large cloud providers.

  • VCS Fabric technology allows enterprises to start small and provides a scale-out strategy for existing components that allows scalability to more than 8,000 ports, while supporting automatic plug-and-play additions of fabric links and nodes.
  • Brocade is part of VMware's SDN ecosystem, allowing Brocade to leverage the development and marketing efforts of VMware while focusing on automated and efficient underlay capabilities.
  • The vendor continues to expand its Network Subscription Plus "pay as you grow" offering that allows enterprises to pay a monthly utilization fee, rather than spending upfront capital.
  • Brocade's typically strong support has suffered over the past year in parts of EMEA and the Asia/Pacific region, as it reduced or modified support structures and locations in these regions.
  • Brocade's integration with VMware's NSX provides an SDN solution, but Brocade has yet to announce its own complete SDN architecture.
  • The vendor's IP revenue are skewed toward domestic U.S. and European markets, so enterprises in other regions need to make sure that Brocade is able to support new data center requirements and capabilities in their geographies.


Cisco is the market share leader in this Magic Quadrant by a wide margin, accounting for more than 54% of the 10GbE port shipments in the market. The vendor has a deep and broad portfolio of products that can meet the needs of any organization, but there is significant overlap, which often makes it difficult to determine the optimal solution to deploy. Over the past 12 months, Cisco announced or began shipping several new switch families (Nexus 3500, 6000, 7700 and 9000), an SDN controller and its next-generation solution, called Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI), which is scheduled to fully ship in the second quarter of 2014. Cisco's ACI vision can help solve longstanding operational issues with data center networks, but reliance on new hardware limits investment protection for existing Nexus 7000 and Unified Computing System (UCS) customers as they migrate to ACI. Cisco should be considered for all data center networking opportunities globally.

  • Cisco has the widest selection of data center networking products and technologies that cover most, if not all, use cases and requirements in the data center.
  • The vendor has a massive global installed base, and there is a large number of networking personnel and channels familiar with Cisco's hardware and software products, which aids customer deployments and migrations.
  • Cisco provides network connectivity modules that can be installed in HP, Dell, Fujitsu and IBM blade server chassis, allowing customers with multivendor server environments to standardize on a single networking access solution.
  • Cisco is a compelling choice for organizations that prefer a single vendor to deliver compute and networking infrastructure, or that desire a turnkey integrated system, such as VCE's Vblock or NetApp's FlexPod architectures.
  • The Cisco data center networking portfolio includes several overlapping product lines and architectures, with limited investment protection between them. Customers must choose the correct architecture for their needs and often face significant migration costs if their requirements change.
  • Based on proposals reviewed by Gartner, Cisco is often higher priced in terms of both capital costs and ongoing maintenance services, compared to alternatives. Customers should competitively bid to keep Cisco prices in line with leading competitors.
  • The vendor is not an integration partner with VMware's NSX or other independent SDN overlay solutions. Additionally, ACI couples Cisco hardware and software components in order to maximize the data center visibility. The combination of these two factors can limit customers' long-term ability to leverage the benefits of SDN in their environment.
  • Gartner clients have commented that reliability of their Nexus 7000-based networks is noticeably lower than previous Catalyst 6500-based networks, which impacts data center network availability. To mitigate the impact of these issues, customers should escalate reliability concerns and work with Cisco support to select the hardware/software/configuration combination that provides the highest level of stability in a given customer environment.
  • The Nexus 2000 Series Fabric Extender (and related blade access products for Cisco UCS and third-party blade servers) is a proprietary solution that does not support local switching, which can negatively impact performance for latency-sensitive applications. In competitive scenarios, clients should request that Cisco propose full-featured ToR switches to provide a valid comparison.


Dell continued to enhance its position within the data center networking market through 2013. Its Active Fabric architecture represents a flexible approach to building and scaling data center networks, and 2013 saw the addition of products like the S5000 and S6000. Dell has achieved notable success selling integrated data center solutions and has clearly leveraged its server, storage and security market presence to uncover opportunities. Dell's investments in SDN go hand in hand with its efforts on data center automation and its Active Fabric Manager. Dell supports open SDN standards and has also demonstrated integration with VMware NSX. Dell should be considered for the shortlists of enterprise data centers, especially if PowerEdge servers are being considered or custom implementations are needed for private cloud opportunities.

  • The Dell Networking offering has a broad portfolio, and the increased investment from the vendor has allowed the networking portfolio to evolve to support new capabilities, such as lower-latency platforms, dense 10GbE/40GbE fixed-form-factor switches and native FC interfaces to support different storage requirements in the portfolio during 2013.
  • Dell continues to use a strong direct sales model, with networking representing an increasingly important aspect of its data center sales approach. This allows the vendor to deliver new technologies to the market and to respond to shifting demands more quickly than many of its competitors.
  • The vendor has a strong focus on network automation and offers its customers the choice of a Dell solution based on Active Fabric Manager or integration into third-party solutions, such as VMware's VDS and NSX, or via integration with OpenStack. This allows enterprises to simplify and integrate network operations into broader data center management processes.
  • Customer support and Dell's ability to deliver a complete data center solution with best-of-breed partners continues to be a strength with the vendor's references.
  • Dell needs to extend its marketing for and awareness of its networking solutions to position its increasing capabilities for the broader market.
  • As a relatively new player in data center networks, Dell lacks an enterprise network installed base, which is often leveraged by market leaders. However, Dell is effectively leveraging its server and storage customers.
  • The vendor has a very open and agnostic approach to SDN, with support for multiple deployment methods, including OpenFlow and integration with VMware's NSX overlay, but lacks a Dell-branded end-to-end SDN solution.

Extreme Networks

Extreme Networks took a major step forward in 2013 by acquiring Enterasys Networks. This deal doubled Extreme's total revenue, expanded its technology base and will allow Extreme to invest R&D dollars into more-differentiated technologies. While it is a positive and bold move, 2014 will be a critical time for Extreme as it must execute quickly on its technology integration strategy, while continuing to maintain the combined revenue stream. Another key initiative was a broad partnership with Lenovo, to integrate Extreme's networking solutions into Lenovo's converged data center offerings. Extreme Networks should be on the shortlist for midsize or large enterprises in North America and Europe, with careful consideration for other geographical areas where Extreme has demonstrated coverage.

  • Extreme continues to invest in data center hardware solutions to support key migrations to 10GbE and 40GbE solutions generally well ahead of many of its competitors. Integration of key Enterasys platforms, such as the S-Series and 7100-Series modular platform, will round out the offerings.
  • Extreme can support a variety of traditional and emerging data center architectures, such as MLAG, TRILL and SPB.
  • By adopting the Enterasys Data Center Manager (DCM) product, Extreme adds significant functionality to its operational capabilities.
  • Extreme offers a programmatic network OS that, combined with the flow-based capabilities from Enterasys, provides an improved software base to leverage.
  • While the acquisition of Enterasys is a strong move by Extreme, integration execution becomes the biggest challenge for 2014, especially considering the rapid technology evolution within the data center. Existing Extreme and Enterasys customers should reconfirm Extreme's road map to ensure appropriate support for key platforms and technologies.
  • While Extreme has solid data center capabilities, it suffers from limited awareness from enterprise network buyers. We rarely see Extreme in competitive opportunities, and it was not mentioned by any other vendor as being among their top three competitors.
  • Extreme (and recently acquired Enterasys) were both small vendors in the data center market. Enterprise customers should ensure appropriate local sales and support coverage before committing to an Extreme solution.


HP continues to lead the established networking vendors with respect to SDN with its SDN portfolio under the Virtual Application Networks banner. 2013 saw major enhancements, including the release of the SDN Developer Kit, the announcement of HP's SDN App Store and integration with VMware's NSX solution. HP sees SDN as an enabling technology to streamline applications across data center and campus networks. The vendor remains a strong No. 2 player in the market, and increased investment in network sales specialists within HP, combined with recent launches of new data platforms (such as the FlexFabric 12900 Switch Series), should allow it to increase its presence in many enterprise accounts. HP should be considered for the shortlists for all data center networking requirements, especially for organizations looking to simplify network operations within a converged infrastructure or to take advantage of SDN as part of their data center network evolution.

  • HP Networking has demonstrated SDN leadership through product line enhancements and a strong commitment to fostering open SDN ecosystems, and is a driving force behind the standardization work within the Open Network Foundation ONF for required northbound APIs.
  • New data center products (such as the FlexFabric 12900 and 5930 Switch Series, and the 6125XLG Ethernet Blade Switch) provide HP customers with architectural choice and an ability to simply upgrade software and configurations to take advantage of new architectural approaches, such as fabric technologies and SDN.
  • HP offers a strong set of technical support and consulting services to complement the total solution offered (covering HP and partner products). These services help enterprises realize the strategic benefits of new technologies and help to transition from traditional data center architectures to new fabric and SDN solutions.
  • HP's Intelligent Management Center (IMC) network management platform supports HP and non-HP technologies, and is well-regarded by Gartner clients. IMC integration into HP's OneView server management system and the Virtual Application Network solutions will also enhance HP's overall data center management capabilities.
  • HP Networking does not provide an integrated server access solution that leverages the vendor's large installed base of Virtual Connect blade switch technology. HP customers must choose between an integrated network solution based on the 6125XLG Ethernet Blade Switch or a server-integrated solution based on Virtual Connect, with incompatible management solutions.
  • HP has several overlapping core platforms, although with architectural commonality, within its data center networking portfolio. While this provides flexibility of design, the number of offerings can be confusing and is generally not required to address the needs of the mainstream market.
  • Although HP has increased investments in networking specialists and channel development, we find some HP channels and generalist HP sales forces are relatively weak in representing HP's network solutions. Organizations that are considering HP should ensure that they engage with the account teams and channels that have appropriate levels of HP Networking experience.


Huawei continues to invest in enterprise data center networking solutions and, as a relatively new entrant, is able to offer flexible alternatives. Huawei's Cloud Fabric architecture and CloudEngine switching platforms are built on open standards, and utilize a hybrid architecture that allows for traditional network devices and SDN devices to operate on the same network. Huawei is an active contributor to technology working groups and standards bodies, including OpenStack, OpenDaylight and ONF. While corporately global in scale and reach, the vendor's data center products are primarily delivered in China, the Asia/Pacific region and other emerging markets, with a plan to increase coverage and target markets over time. However, Huawei's efforts in the North American enterprise market have been disjointed and confused. The vendor strives to provide a 10-year product life cycle for foundational components, and it continues to embrace the changing technology landscape and enterprise requirements. Huawei should be considered when there is a need for a high degree of scalability and port density, especially in Asia and developing markets.

  • Huawei has aggressively ramped up its enterprise capabilities, including specific data center products under its CloudEngine brand, and is one of the few vendors included in this Magic Quadrant to offer not only 10GbE and 40GbE, but also 100GbE capabilities for large enterprises and cloud providers.
  • The vendor's strategy does not lock enterprises into a vendor-specific solution. In addition to an internally developed SDN controller platform, Huawei is working to integrate VMware NSX, Big Switch and others as alternative SDN controller platforms.
  • The eSight component of Huawei's Cloud Fabric is working toward unified management of data center infrastructure, including zero-touch provisioning for virtualized workloads. Integration with Microsoft is complete, while work continues with other partners.
  • The vendor has focused on its ability to provide global support in more than 150 countries and to develop an ecosystem of more than 2,100 partners.
  • Huawei has limited, although growing, sales and channel resources in North America and Western Europe, which can hinder its ability to deliver data network solutions.
  • There has been confusion and missteps concerning Huawei's commitment to enterprise network solutions in the United States. Enterprises should vet local support both for sales and service as part of the evaluation process.
  • All Huawei platforms are SDN-ready, but implementation is limited due to pending software releases and integration of APIs that are expected throughout 2014.
  • Huawei has limited marketing communications, in terms of company visibility, messaging and differentiation. This means that it is not considered for all potential opportunities in its target markets and geographies.


IBM's networking focus has been to provide access for physical and virtual servers, while positioning SDN as a key part of its Software Defined Environment initiative. However, in January 2014, IBM announced the intent to sell its x86 server business to Lenovo, which would also include the sale of its ToR and blade switching network products. The sale is currently pending regulatory approvals. IBM's software-based SDN solutions are not included in the Lenovo sale. In the interim, potential customers should seek as much clarity as possible from both partners, and should be cautious before making further investments in IBM's server access technologies.

  • IBM has the ability to provide strong data center networking support for multivendor environments on a global scale.
  • IBM has invested in and released virtual switches and several SDN solutions (which are not part of the planned Lenovo deal); however, Gartner has seen very limited client interest in and/or adoption of these.
  • IBM's switching modules for BladeCenter, Flex System and PureSystems deliver high-end performance.
  • The transitional period, due to the pending sale to Lenovo, creates a significant level of uncertainty for IBM's ToR and blade switching network products.
  • IBM lacks a comprehensive end-to-end data center networking vision and portfolio, and typically partners with other networking vendors to provide a complete data center network solution, which is further exacerbated by the Lenovo deal.
  • IBM views VMware's NSX as a competitor and has no plans for future network integration, which is a potential concern for organizations heavily invested in VMware.

Juniper Networks

Juniper Networks has gained attention for its strong technology innovation, but has struggled with portfolio confusion and integrating different fabric architectures into its overall strategy. In 2013, the vendor introduced the EX9200 and QFX5100 as components of its new, more aligned MetaFabric architecture. It also released the Contrail overlay SDN solution. Newer Juniper switch platforms support OpenFlow, and the vendor is a founding member of OpenDaylight and ONF. Consider Juniper for all midsize to large data center upgrade and refresh requirements.

  • Juniper continues to provide solid switching components that leverage its Junos OS and are foundational building blocks for differing data center architecture requirements.
  • Enterprises can use Juniper's Network Director management platform to implement its zero-touch provisioning capability of the data center switching platforms. The application also integrates into VMware's vCenter solution to manage virtual machines (VMs).
  • The Juniper SDN overlay strategy does not lock enterprises into a vendor-specific solution. The vendor's hardware solutions provide support for VMware NSX, while Juniper also offers the Contrail network virtualization platform for large enterprise and cloud environments, and OpenContrail, an open-source platform based on Contrail features and functionality.
  • Based on client feedback and survey results for this Magic Quadrant, Juniper ranked the highest in overall customer experience and whether customers would use the vendor again.
  • With three data center options (EX Series, QFabric System and Contrail), Juniper may present a somewhat confusing set of alternatives. While newer MetaFabric products help, enterprises need to define their usage scenarios to ensure that the selected solutions best address their business problems.
  • As the largest network-only vendor, Juniper is constrained by its lack of integrated system channels, which limits its channels and ecosystem partners, and its ability to broaden its reach.
  • Juniper's management team and corporate focus is in transition, with a stated intent to concentrate on service providers and large enterprise customers, which raises questions of focus in the small or midsize business market.
  • Juniper's commitment to SDN as a core component of its enterprise portfolio is complicated, because the SDN division is not integrated into the rest of the vendor's product development teams.


VMware is a new entrant to the Data Center Networking Magic Quadrant, due to the introduction of its NSX overlay solution and its large installed base of distributed virtual switches in virtual server deployments. The NSX solution is an innovative approach to solving long-standing network provisioning bottlenecks within the data center, and it allows for the integration of switching, routing and upper-layer services into an integrated application and network orchestration platform. With an overlay solution that may not require hardware upgrades, VMware offers enterprises a potentially quicker way of taking advantage of SDN capabilities. The NSX solution should be considered by existing VMware customers as a way of providing network agility and reducing network operational challenges within the data center.

  • VMware NSX provides a way to bring network agility to existing network deployments with limited impact to existing network hardware. This approach simplifies the day-to-day network operations required to deal with application changes.
  • VMware NSX may offer a cost-effective solution, assuming that the existing infrastructure has appropriate scale, capacity and performance to meet application requirements, and that enterprises have negotiated appropriate discounts from the vendor.
  • VMware NSX works across many IP-based network installations and in virtual environments running mainstream hypervisors.
  • VMware has established relationships with a broad set of IT vendor partners to provide integration of security and optimization solutions, as well as key network hardware players, such as Arista Networks, Brocade, Dell, HP and Juniper Networks.
  • VMware NSX is a new product and there are a very limited number of production deployments in mainstream enterprise.
  • VMware does not offer network hardware, and enterprises must still acquire, provision and manage the foundational aspects of the physical network.
  • The NSX solution has limited control of the underlay network. It is imperative for customers to ensure that VMware's assumptions of adequate performance, scale and resiliency are available in the physical network to meet current and future application deployments. Visibility is improving through the integration into traditional network management tools.
  • VMware also offers rudimentary upper-layer services within a distributed and scalable framework. Enterprises should look to VMware partnerships to integrate with existing security, application delivery controller ADC and WAN optimization capabilities, while continuing to monitor VMware's upper-layer offerings.
  • Enterprises must evaluate the total cost of NSX deployments. Although we often find that NSX is a lower-cost solution when the existing network can meet existing and planned capacity requirements, there is a very large range of VMware pricing and discounting in the market that customers need to consider and evaluate. In situations when network upgrades are required, the comparison will not be as favorable.

Vendors Added and Dropped

We review and adjust our inclusion criteria for Magic Quadrants and MarketScopes as markets change. As a result of these adjustments, the mix of vendors in any Magic Quadrant or MarketScope may change over time. A vendor's appearance in a Magic Quadrant or MarketScope one year and not the next does not necessarily indicate that we have changed our opinion of that vendor. It may be a reflection of a change in the market and, therefore, changed evaluation criteria, or of a change of focus by that vendor.

The data center networking market is extremely dynamic and innovative, as vendors attempt to bring new ideas and solutions to the enterprise market. We track a number of vendors that do not yet meet our inclusion criteria, because we believe they have the potential to impact this marketplace over time and to provide advice to our clients that ask about smaller, innovative vendors. Vendors being actively tracked in this market include Allied Telesis, Big Switch Networks, Cumulus Networks, D-Link, Microsoft, Midokura, NEC, Netgear, Oracle, Pica8, Plexxi and PLUMgrid.


  • VMware


  • Enterasys Networks was dropped due to its acquisition by Extreme Networks — the combined offering is covered in this Magic Quadrant.

Inclusion and Exclusion Criteria

Vendors included in this Magic Quadrant must:

  • Demonstrate a clear understanding of emerging enterprise data center networking hardware and software requirements, and provide hardware and/or software that address the emerging networking requirements outlined in the Market Definition/Description and Market Overview sections.
  • Have publicly available, shipping products with at least three references as of 15 October 2013. Products shipping after this date will only have a significant influence on the Completeness of Vision axis.
  • Demonstrate production enterprise data center customers with at least three reference customers supporting data center networks of more than 1,000 physical servers.

Evaluation Criteria

Ability to Execute

The following provides some insight into the criteria Gartner uses when evaluating a vendor's Ability to Execute. At a high level, our analysis of Ability to Execute attempts to capture how well a vendor is performing across the primary functional units of the business — product, sales/channels, marketing, service/support and financial:

  • Product/Service: Evaluates vendors by looking at their overall portfolios, including the ability to deliver and manage all aspects of data center networking (this includes core, ToR switches, virtual switches and blade switches, and the relevant management and control of the infrastructure). We consider product and architectural migration strategies, and the ability to address virtualization, latency and scalability issues for both north-south and east-west traffic. More emphasis is placed on capabilities that would apply in open environments, including SDN, because many of those areas cross the boundaries of the IT architecture, making proprietary protocols a problem.
  • Overall Viability (Business Unit, Financial, Strategy, Organization): Viability includes an assessment of the overall organization's financial health, the financial and practical success of the business unit, and the likelihood that the individual business unit will continue to invest in and offer the product, and advance the state of the art within the organization's portfolio of data center switching products.
  • Sales Execution/Pricing: Evaluates presales and go-to-market activities of both the vendor and its channels, and includes an analysis of how the vendor interacts with its potential customers. The second aspect of this criterion includes our evaluation of the cost-effectiveness of the solutions for capital purchase and long-term maintenance, and the ability to recognize and position the most appropriate solution in specific sales situations.
  • Market Responsiveness and Track Record: Assesses the ability to respond, change direction, be flexible and achieve competitive success as opportunities develop, competitors act, customer needs evolve and market dynamics change. This criterion also considers the provider's history of responsiveness.
  • Market Execution: Focuses on how the vendor is perceived in the market, and how well its marketing programs are recognized. For data center network infrastructure, the evaluation focuses on how well the vendor is able to influence the market around key messages and attributes related to operational agility, changing size and density requirements, and new application architectures. An additional indicator for this criterion is how often Gartner clients consider a vendor as a possible supplier in a shortlist evaluation. The change in momentum in this indicator is particularly important.
  • Customer Experience: Looks at all aspects of the customer interaction, with a heavier weighting on postsales service and support activities.
  • Operations: This criterion was not ranked.
Table 1. Ability to Execute Evaluation Criteria

Evaluation Criteria




Overall Viability (Business Unit, Financial, Strategy, Organization)


Sales Execution/Pricing


Market Responsiveness and Track Record


Marketing Execution


Customer Experience



No Rating

Source: Gartner (April 2014)

Completeness of Vision

Evaluations for Completeness of Vision attempt to determine how well the vendor understands and is preparing for future market conditions, as well as how it is shaping the future market:

  • Market Understanding: Assesses the vendor's ability to look into the future and drive new ideas into product road maps and offerings. In this market, leadership in driving the data center network to support three key market transitions (data center size and density, changing traffic patterns, and the need more agile operational capabilities) with the product offering, as well as how and where SDN will be implemented, are good examples of what we are looking for.
  • Marketing Strategy: Evaluates the ability of the vendor to influence the market through its messaging and marketing campaigns. Vendors that incorporate and drive the three key data center network market transitions demonstrate an ability to use their marketing strategies to their advantage.
  • Sales Strategy: Evaluates how the vendor exploits new business models that are emerging due to market and technology transitions.
  • Offering (Product) Strategy: Evaluates how the vendor invests in R&D to continue to innovate in the three key market transitions and to ensure that future products continue to evolve.
  • Business Model: The soundness and logic of a technology provider's underlying business proposition.
  • Innovation: Measures the vendor's ability to drive innovation to satisfy emerging data center networking requirements in the three key areas, and how the vendor invests in new transformational technologies to move its business and the market forward. A key attribute in the data center market is for the vendor to innovate in technology areas that best meet market requirements.
  • Vertical/Industry Strategy and Geographic Strategy: These criteria were not ranked.
Table 2. Completeness of Vision Evaluation Criteria

Evaluation Criteria


Market Understanding


Marketing Strategy


Sales Strategy


Offering (Product) Strategy


Business Model


Vertical/Industry Strategy

No Rating



Geographic Strategy

No Rating

Source: Gartner (April 2014)

Quadrant Descriptions


A Leader has demonstrated a sustained ability to meet the changing needs for mainstream data center architectures. A Leader also has the ability to shape the market and maintain strong relationships with its channels and customers, while offering solutions for the data center infrastructure market.


A Challenger has demonstrated sustained execution in the marketplace, and has clear, long-term viability in the market, but has not shown the ability to shape and transform the market.


A Visionary has demonstrated an ability to increase the features in its offering, to provide a unique and differentiated approach to the market. A Visionary has innovated in one or more of the key areas of data center infrastructure, such as management (including virtualization), security (including policy enforcement), SDN and operational efficiency, as well as cost reductions.

Niche Players

A Niche Player has a complete or near-complete product offering, but does not have strong go-to-market capabilities (such as for channels) or has geographical limitations. A Niche Player has a viable product offering and, in some cases, will be an appropriate choice, depending on the usage scenario.


This Magic Quadrant focuses on data center networking solutions to solve the emerging requirements for a scalable, high-performance and simply managed network that places the network into a more cohesive data center architecture. The data center networking market, as described in this research, is still emerging as architectures and vendor differentiation continue to be developed.

Because the market is rapidly changing and requirements are significantly different from in the past, organizations should ensure that they understand the shifts in application architectures and how they impact the network. Data center organizations should carefully evaluate alternate approaches and vendor solutions to arrive at the most appropriate future architecture.

Market Overview

This Magic Quadrant addresses the emerging requirements and focused technologies we are seeing in the market today. Technologies include data center core networking solutions, ToR and blade switches, virtual switching, and emerging SDN solutions, including SDN overlays. As enterprises started to look at their business requirements, we saw a segmentation of the infrastructure and a shift in the buying practices — from making a homogeneous decision for all LAN switching requirements to one where requirements were disaggregated into three largely independent decisions (LAN access, campus core and data center networking). The campus edge, which includes wired and wireless access infrastructure, is now covered in "Magic Quadrant for the Wired and Wireless LAN Access Infrastructure."

Note 1
Types A, B and C Companies

Gartner defines Type A, B and C companies as follows:

  • Type A companies are more aggressive and willing to take risks to achieve competitive goals and distance from their competition. They are generally more technologically sophisticated than the other types.
  • Type B companies tend to be fast followers once the risks are more secure and proof points have been established.
  • Type C companies tend to be risk-averse and less achievement-oriented, and are willing to delay their responses after a considerable part of the market has adopted a technology.

Evaluation Criteria Definitions

Ability to Execute

Product/Service: Core goods and services offered by the vendor for the defined market. This includes current product/service capabilities, quality, feature sets, skills and so on, whether offered natively or through OEM agreements/partnerships as defined in the market definition and detailed in the subcriteria.

Overall Viability: Viability includes an assessment of the overall organization's financial health, the financial and practical success of the business unit, and the likelihood that the individual business unit will continue investing in the product, will continue offering the product and will advance the state of the art within the organization's portfolio of products.

Sales Execution/Pricing: The vendor's capabilities in all presales activities and the structure that supports them. This includes deal management, pricing and negotiation, presales support, and the overall effectiveness of the sales channel.

Market Responsiveness/Record: Ability to respond, change direction, be flexible and achieve competitive success as opportunities develop, competitors act, customer needs evolve and market dynamics change. This criterion also considers the vendor's history of responsiveness.

Marketing Execution: The clarity, quality, creativity and efficacy of programs designed to deliver the organization's message to influence the market, promote the brand and business, increase awareness of the products, and establish a positive identification with the product/brand and organization in the minds of buyers. This "mind share" can be driven by a combination of publicity, promotional initiatives, thought leadership, word of mouth and sales activities.

Customer Experience: Relationships, products and services/programs that enable clients to be successful with the products evaluated. Specifically, this includes the ways customers receive technical support or account support. This can also include ancillary tools, customer support programs (and the quality thereof), availability of user groups, service-level agreements and so on.

Operations: The ability of the organization to meet its goals and commitments. Factors include the quality of the organizational structure, including skills, experiences, programs, systems and other vehicles that enable the organization to operate effectively and efficiently on an ongoing basis.

Completeness of Vision

Market Understanding: Ability of the vendor to understand buyers' wants and needs and to translate those into products and services. Vendors that show the highest degree of vision listen to and understand buyers' wants and needs, and can shape or enhance those with their added vision.

Marketing Strategy: A clear, differentiated set of messages consistently communicated throughout the organization and externalized through the website, advertising, customer programs and positioning statements.

Sales Strategy: The strategy for selling products that uses the appropriate network of direct and indirect sales, marketing, service, and communication affiliates that extend the scope and depth of market reach, skills, expertise, technologies, services and the customer base.

Offering (Product) Strategy: The vendor's approach to product development and delivery that emphasizes differentiation, functionality, methodology and feature sets as they map to current and future requirements.

Business Model: The soundness and logic of the vendor's underlying business proposition.

Vertical/Industry Strategy: The vendor's strategy to direct resources, skills and offerings to meet the specific needs of individual market segments, including vertical markets.

Innovation: Direct, related, complementary and synergistic layouts of resources, expertise or capital for investment, consolidation, defensive or pre-emptive purposes.

Geographic Strategy: The vendor's strategy to direct resources, skills and offerings to meet the specific needs of geographies outside the "home" or native geography, either directly or through partners, channels and subsidiaries as appropriate for that geography and market.