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“Everything we do should be focused on our customers.” An Interview with Phillip McClure

Natalia Vianden Director, Global Channel Programs Published 6 Jan 2022

Meet Phillip McClure, Principal Solutions Architect, U.S. East at CDW, our Extreme Champion of the Quarter.

What do you consider to be your single greatest professional achievement?

You couldn’t start with an easy question?

I’ve worked in IT for almost 40 years and in that time, I’ve faced my share of what I term “Captain Kirk cheats death” moments―those moments where you snatch victory from certain failure through skill, perseverance, and, sometimes, a bit of luck. That’s not saying that I haven’t worked on numerous projects of varying complexity that proceed without much angst, but it is the former that I tend to appreciate the most.

I’d say at this point in my career, my greatest professional accomplishment was applying my technical and business skills and customer focus to start my one-person consulting company focused on customer success that supported my family for 17 years and enabled my daughter to go to college debt-free. That focus on customer success and the opportunity to assist a greater variety of customers brought me to CDW more recently.

What are the most notable projects involving Extreme solutions that you’ve worked on?

I’d have to say my three most notable and, for me, memorable Extreme networking projects all involve Extreme Management Center, ExtremeSwitching, and ExtremeWireless solutions. All three were deployed in IPv4 Class B networks run by small network teams.

By using the functionality in Extreme Management Center, I was able to hide the complexity of the network configurations for these network teams while providing them with network-wide visibility. The product also enables them to easily make configuration changes using point and click features, to manage the configuration and change management and validation process, and to generate management reports.

What do you value the most in your relationship with a technology vendor? How would you describe your experience as an Extreme partner?

I believe that a great technology partner does everything reasonable to ensure customer success. I have stories from my time with Cabletron/Enterasys, both as an employee and as an Enterasys/Extreme services partner, of customers who contacted the Extreme Global Technical Assistance Center about a network issue that ended up being a configuration issue with another vendor’s solution. The customers would talk about how the GTAC engineer guided them through the configuration, even though it was another vendor’s product.

Another time, I was installing a network module on an Enterasys Matrix N7 DFE module and popped the heat sink off the base card’s CPU. The customer couldn’t wait for next business day parts and didn’t have a spare module. Luckily, they were in Massachusetts and I was able to drive to the old Andover office where the GTAC engineer handed me the replacement part that they had pulled from one of their labs.

As a solutions architect for CDW, I see that same commitment to customer―and by extension partner―success when working with my Extreme sales and engineering counterparts. This is especially apparent when working with them on RFPs, as their proposal services team is top notch in providing what is needed for an effective response.

You’ve been a close follower of Extreme from its founding 25 years ago. How do you see both the company’s evolution in the past and its vision for the future?

In 1996, I joined Cabletron. I believe the first time I became aware of Extreme Networks was during a big debate on the future of the networking industry, specifically ATM versus Gigabit Ethernet. At the time, Cabletron was leaning toward expanding its SecureFast fabric technology to ATM, while Extreme, if I recall correctly, stood firmly in the Gigabit Ethernet camp.

Prior to coming together as one company, both Enterasys and Extreme focused on standards-based products but neither one was afraid to innovate where they felt they could build a solution to improve network operations for their customers. SecureFast and Ethernet Automatic Protection Switching (EAPS) come to mind. What has impressed me about Extreme since the Enterasys and Avaya Networks acquisitions has been their ability to integrate what they see as the best of each product set into their ongoing product line. It’s a strategy that is very apparent with the universal switching platforms that can support EXOS and VOSS plus the universal wireless AP platforms that can support wing, campus controller and cloud for wireless.

The other exciting thing that I see with Extreme is the speed at which they’re incorporating their hardware products into ExtremeCloud IQ to leverage its ease of configuration and AI/ML capabilities. This includes integrating ExtremeCloud IQ with their on-premises management solution, Site Engine, with its rich automation, network access control, analytics, and multi-vendor capabilities. This is functionality that I haven’t noticed any of the other major network players address yet. The mix of cloud and on-prem management capabilities is a key differentiator for Extreme as it provides simple, one stop cloud management that can easily scale to support more comprehensive requirements that need an on-site presence.

Finally, Extreme is investing heavily in the AI/ML capabilities needed to enable self-driving networks that identify impacts on user experience and provide either automated or guided remediation.

And how do you feel about Extreme’s recent acceleration towards SD-WAN and SASE areas?

I see it filling a gap in Extreme’s capabilities for creating and managing a cohesive, secure, distributed enterprise transport system that recognizes that the Internet is now an integral part of the corporate network. So, adding SD-WAN and SASE capabilities to the product portfolio is critical for securing the expanded attack surface of today’s flex work environment while supporting a great user experience.

As a principal solutions architect, you provide a lot of education, coaching, and mentorship to your colleagues and customers. What’s the best piece of advice you can give to someone who would like to follow in your footsteps?

Early in my career I attended a mainframe technical user group meeting where a wise veteran said to the group, and I am paraphrasing, “This is your career, something that you’re going to do to support yourself for 30 to 40 or more years of your life. Invest in it. Always keep learning and growing.”

I’d add to that what I learned when I was with a major bank and something that CDW strongly believes in with our customer-centric CDW Circle of Service: everyone either provides services to the company’s customers or we support someone who does. Consequently, everything we do should be focused on our customers, both internal and external.

To become an Extreme Champion, please click here.

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