I don’t get to the Silicon Valley very often, but I am a professional free-lance media type and have been monitoring and covering goings on in the WLAN space for a lot of years. Last night I got an email regarding Steven Glapa leaving Ruckus, and heading for AirTight networks as the company’s new Chief Marketing Officer. I don’t usually give coverage to staff changes in the Valley, as there are just too many of them that happen frequently, and I’m not big on puffing up egos by reporting on individuals’ career decisions. But something about the AirTight email got me thinking beyond their new CMO.
The sender of the email used the words “snagged” and “talent poaching” to describe the luring of Glapa away from Ruckus, and perhaps that’s what set the Hook of Deeper Thinking into my handsomely chiseled jaw. I have no knowledge of what made AirTight appealing to Glapa, or what it is about Ruckus that made him want to move on, and frankly I don’t really give a rip. But being a habitual Big Picture thinker, here’s what Glapa’s move got me thinking about.
- The notion of Validation has gotten used often lately. Cisco buying Meraki validated cloud-managed wireless, which also made Aerohive and PowerCloud happy. More recently, Aruba Networks released their opening cloud volley, followed by an interesting offering from Enterasys– again, validating the model. AirTight is part of the growing cloud-managed WLAN space, and though it’s roots are in the love-it-or-hate-it security overlay realm, has picked a hot direction to evolve given all of the validation of cloudy wireless going on these days.
- AirTight also recently “poached” a couple of high profile staff assets from Aerohive Networks, in the forms of one Devin Akin and one Andrew von Nagy. Again, staff moves aren’t my kind of news as a rule, but there is a significance here- cloud-managed wireless has matured to the point where cloud vendors can steal each others’ expertise, as there is now an experienced cadre of cloud-savvy networkers to court. This wasn’t the case not so long ago.
- Perhaps a “shaking out” of this market sector is imminent? AirTight gained a CMO from Ruckus, two “Evangelists” (I’m starting to of tire that term, Jimmy Swaggart) from Aerohive, and all three companies are arguably “small”. Though wireless itself is a big and growing market, could these sorts of moves reflect some hidden gloom at the “donor” companies? This is pure speculation, obviously, but also a natural mental path to wander down. How many smaller and/or cloud-managed companies can the market sustain at this point?
- AirTight better make a splash soon, as none of these guys are probably working for cheap. Akin certainly has name recognition as a WLAN deity, with von Nagy no slouch in this regard. I don’t know much about Glapa, but given that Ruckus has been on fire at times, he must have a good business touch. So three strong HR adds have been made to a company that has a product line that needs to do some catching up before (in my opinion, at least) it legitimately competes with Meraki and Aerohive for robustness of feature set. Hopefully the new guys hasten that development for AirTight’s sake, given that payroll seems to be swelling for a company “new” to the WLAN access market.
- Despite all of the growth and media coverage of cloudy WLAN of late, the controller-based folks still own the market. But… the division between controller-based and cloud-managed is being blurred as more vendors are doing unholy things to the control and data planes and diluting the bajeezus out of the controller model at times. The point? There is still an awful lot of industry evolution to be done. Each and every vendor in the mix has the daunting task of evolving while not losing customers or overwhelming them with constantly changing license models, lexicon, and topologies. Whether controllers completely age out and the cloud wins, or whether we end up with options in a few years remains to be seen. Meanwhile, the religious wars surrounding each kind of WLAN will rage on.
And that pretty much ends my lunch hour of deep thought- back to work I go.