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.

[ See also: 10 hot SD-WAN startups to watch ]

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.

10 most powerful networking companies1IDG

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.

10 most powerful networking companies2IDG

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.

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