Array Networks back on track

Array Networks, a pioneer of integrated web management tools, has come through a difficult period. Founded in 2000 as ClickArray, much was initially made of the San Jose-based company's technology and its strategy. But the company soon suffered a backlash. Some analysts accused it of mismanagement, while users complained that its product did not live up to the marketing promises.

Now, however, the company has reinvented itself. Towards the end of 2001, it rebranded and hired a new boss. Lawrence Lu, ClickArray's founder and the brains behind its technology, stepped down as CEO and became chief technology officer. His replacement, Donald Massaro, seems well suited to his role. His 30-year tenure in Silicon Valley includes positions as CEO of Shugart Associates, which made the first low-cost floppy disk drives, and as president of Xerox's office products division. In both positions Massaro successfully marketed products and technologies considered ahead of their time.

This is essentially the challenge that faces Array Networks today. Its product is considered revolutionary, since it combines in one box a variety of functions including network load balancing, web content caching, firewalls and virtual private network encryption – web management functions are typically provided by several discrete hardware units.

Two years ago, web management products were generally sold to companies that needed to manage large-scale global networks, such as application and Internet service providers. And in this market Array faces tough competition from the dominant vendors of discrete management products – Cisco, Nortel, Radware and F5 Networks.

But the landscape has changed in favour of Array. The demise of the application service provider model over 2000 and 2001 has severely reduced the market potential for discrete web traffic management hardware, say analysts. Simultaneously, the demand for easy-to-use, integrated alternatives has grown as enterprises place more of their core applications and systems onto the Internet in order to provide greater access to customers, employers and partners. This new surge in demand is expected to push the web traffic management market to a value of $7.4 billion (€8bn) by 2006, from its current value of $1 billion (€1.1bn), according to market research company IDC.

Array says the relatively low cost of its products makes it attractive in the current economic climate. According to CEO Massaro, Array is now selling 100 units a month. Priced between $20,000 (€21,740) and $60,000 (€65,221), the product is the cheapest on the market, according to IDC's Lucinda Borovick. Furthermore, the combination of functions in one box means that system management and deployment is much simpler than with discrete units. Array's products also have been praised by analysts and customers for the high performance that they provide.

However, this is a critical time for Array. It knows it must make significant headway while its competitors edge closer to releasing alternative products. Cisco and Nortel, for example, are planning to release integrated hardware-based products by the end of 2002, says Michael Hoch, an analyst at US market research company Aberdeen Group. Additionally, Hoch says that there are around 30 web-traffic management start-up companies that plan to come out of stealth mode over 2002 to compete for this embryonic market.

Despite this emerging threat, analysts are generally positive about Array's future. The company is well funded – it received $31 million (€33.7m) from venture capital firms H&Q Asia Pacific, US Venture Partners and Comdisco Ventures in 2001. Furthermore, Array is ahead of the industry in terms of product development, and Aberdeen's Hoch points out that, unlike the new companies entering the market, Array has a proven product to sell. Being first to market can be a curse; but Array believes it will be the making of the company.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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