Boston — With Keysight Technologies recent acquisition of network testing equipment manufacturer Ixia, the world's largest test-and-measurement company gets a little larger — by about 1,800 employees.
Formed in 1997, Ixia has been a leading supplier of hardware and software for network testing, operating at communications protocol layers 2 through 7. Keysight's expertise has traditionally come from the physical (layer 1), whether that be electrical, optical, or wireless. Keysight, when it was part of Agilent Technologies, had developed some products for wireline protocol testing but exited the business. Indeed, the company sold a line of network testers to Ixia in 2009. Thus, the acquisition brings Keysight back into the network-testing market. To learn more about how Ixia fits in with Keysight, I spoke with Jay Alexander, Keysight's Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, by phone.
EET: What were the driving factors in acquiring Ixia?
Alexander: Keysight has three major market segments: communications, military/aerospace, and industrial electronics (general electronics, semiconductors, automotive & energy). Communications has long been the heart of the company, going back to when we were part of HP. When we look at the communications market, particularly toward 5G, we see an opportunity for test beyond the physical layer. We also see an opportunity to get into network visibility test, which Ixia has been doing for a number of years. Looking up the protocol stack, we saw Ixia as a strong player. Network test and network visibility are markets that are growing faster than our core test-and-measurement business and we see Ixia as a strong player.
EET: Agilent was in the network-test business at one time, selling off its N2X product line to Ixia in 2009. Now things have come full circle. Can you provide some background?
Alexander: At the time Agilent sold off its network-test product line, what is now Keysight was called Electronic Measurement Group (EMG). The market conditions in the mid-2000s resulted in lots of "dark fiber" as people talked about the telecom infrastructure as being over-built. Agilent management wanted EMG to focus on our core competencies, which were the most profitable at the time, to reduce risk in those turbulent times.
EET: Will Ixia operate as a subsidiary of Keysight or will it be integrated into Keysight, losing the Ixia name over time?
Alexander: We have no plans to lose the Ixia name because of its strength in the network-test market. Ixia will operate and be reported externally as Keysight’s fourth solutions group, the Ixia Solutions Group.
EET: The press release mentioned Ixia's strength in software engineering. Was that a significant factor in the acquisition and how will that play out?
Alexander: As part of our evolution as an independent company and focus on customers’ needs, Keysight is transforming from a hardware-centric maker of box instruments to one that provides products and services that help engineers quickly solve problems. That’s where software comes in, it enhances the hardware’s value. Most of Ixia's engineers work on software. We believe this acquisition will strengthen Keysight’s overall capability.
EET: Which new competitors does the Ixia acquisition bring to Keysight?
Alexander: The major competitor is Spirent. There are others, especially in the network visibility field, such as Gigamon. Keysight has now entered that network visibility market, which involves monitoring traffic on live networks so they can be optimized.
EET: Do you see any management changes coming for Ixia?
Alexander: We acquired Ixia because of the expertise of its people. Our objective is always to retain that expertise and ensure the continuity of the business as we work together going forward. Whenever two companies combine, however, there's usually some duplication, particularly in functions outside of R&D and sales. We will look at the newly combined company and seek to optimize across both Keysight and Ixia. That's the integration phase, which we are just now beginning.
EET: From a sales perspective, where will engineers go if they're looking for Ixia equipment?
Alexander: The Ixia sales force remains in place. Should a Keysight sales person see an opportunity to sell Ixia equipment, he or she will refer the customer to the Ixia part of the company. Over time, those field forces may combine as they become familiar with the other company's products.
—Martin Rowe covers test and measurement for EE Times and EDN. Contact him at email@example.com