Is It Time For A New Licensing Paradigm For WLAN Features?

Not all wireless networks serve the same types of clients, or have the same operational goals in mind. So why do WLAN vendors see all customers as the same when it comes to licensing?

I know that we all have the freedom to negotiate the deepest discounts that we can with our WLAN vendors, and in this regard large customers tend to get better discounts because they buy more stuff. But whether you are talking large or smaller customers, even “within tier” there are significant differences among environments that perhaps ought to bear on licensing costs and strategies offered by vendors for advanced features.

Here’s what I mean- if I have an environment of hundreds or thousands of APs and want to do something like advanced location analytics to “monetize” my WLAN or gain workflow efficiencies to increase profits, I would expect to pay a premium for the magic that that makes that happen in the form of hardware and features from my WLAN vendor.  After all, that’s an obvious investment. But if I’m a hospital or not-for-profit, or even a University or college, and my use for that same magic is more altruistic and not attached to obvious profit, should my costs for the magic be the same? Asked another way, is it reasonable to want the WLAN vendor to charge a fraction of the cost of the same magic if all I want to use it for is simple handicap-routing and no-profit mapping just to help visitors get around?

Can licensing ever be based on “what are you actually gonna do with that magic?” I know that I priced up a big, fancy locations-based analytic service for my own environment with the intention of providing it essentially for the public good- not for turning a profit off of it. But my costs come in in the hundreds of thousands of dollars- just the same way it would if I was going to make lots of money on those same services.

I know the notion of use case-based licensing is a bit weird and complicates life for the vendors, but from the customer perspective it is an idea with appeal.

3 thoughts on “Is It Time For A New Licensing Paradigm For WLAN Features?

  1. deathbytreewalk

    I understand the reasoning from the client perspective but please god no.

    The more complicated the licensing the more you pay. Vendors get scared you will find a loophole in the cheaper stuff and will use it for things they want to charge you more for. This seems to always lead to higher pricing or incredibly complex caveats around what features work when and I. Combination with what other bits.

    Look at UC from Cisco. For years we have had to put up with ridiculous licensing with different sets of either per device or per user licensing all with 3-5 options for each and that is just for the core products. Add in some things like attendant consoles and the 4 different versions with different ways to license the same things and it is just insane.

    Wireless is generally much simpler. License everything based on the number of APs. I won’t argue it shouldn’t be cheaper as in many cases it should but this is usually achieved by discount. If you complicate the licensing you still have to discuss discount and now there is another layer of complexity.

    1. wirednot Post author

      You are right of course… No simple way to achieve what I’m hinting at, but I can’t shake the feeling that those of us who don’t directly glean revenue from our WLANs pay something akin to a “feature tax” compared to those who do and the effect is magnified as you scale to very large AP counts.

      1. Ben Kirton

        Agreed. Look at the cost of Advanced Location for the MSE (which i believe is the CMX stuff). If you are not directly generating revenue from it you could never justify the cost no matter how useful it would be.

        Always seems to come back to balancing # of sales versus value of sales and those sorts of features sell to very few people for a very high margin. As there is no cost of sale around hardware etc i would have thought that getting it in the hands of a crap-ton of people and generating massive interest and value in the platform would allow Cisco (who i am just most familiar with, not advocating it is only them doing this) to extend market dominance and raise profits with every additional sale.

        I’m not saying it should be cheap, just not priced and the ridiculous levels it is today which effectively price it out of almost all customers reach. It isn’t a Bugatti Veyron, it’s a SATNAV system in a BMW that costs as much as a Veyron.

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