Tag Archives: Meru

A Six-Pack Of WLAN Industry Developments

Things are always shaking in Wi-Fi Land. New stuff, company goings on, regulatory drama… it’s never boring. Here’s a quick bundle of interesting hits to consider.

  1. Meraki Founders Quit CiscoI’m not only a Meraki user, I’ve been following the company for years under the brim of my analyst’s hat. I delighted when Meraki came out with their MX line, and later when switches joined the lineup. There’s a lot of power in the Meraki magic, so I can’t say I was totally surprised when Cisco bought them for north of a billion dollars. At the same time, I had my concerns. Far be it for anyone not in the loop to speculate on why Meraki’s Founding Three have opted to split, but it does fuel all sorts of speculation depending on your frame of reference.

  2. Xirrus Has Announced a Cloud-Managed 11ac Wallplate AP. This is an industry first (as far as I know) and I hope other vendors follow soon (are you listening, Meraki?)

  3. Meru also has new product offering: Xpress CloudWith 2×2 11ac APs managed via cloud subscription, aimed at SMBs. (Meru ain’t dead, folks.)

  4. Fluke Networks’ Air Magnet Enterprise gets an upgrade.  Quoting my brief: “The new version of AirMagnet Enterprise includes several major security enhancements, new 802.11ac functionality, the industry¹s first “No Wireless or Cellular Zone” capability, new PCI 3.0 compliance features,  and more. Enterprise is already unique with its Automated Health Check and Dynamic Threat Update capabilities, but these new features make it even more powerful, and a crucial solution for organizations that can¹t afford to have wireless security loopholes.” Alas- it’s still an overlay…

  5. Ruckus Ups Their Smart Wi-Fi Game. A laundry list of beefy feature goodness is aimed at improved Wi-FI calling, among other enhancements.

  6. Eero. Interesting promise and premise. We’ll have to see how this one plays out- but promising people that you can solve dead spots in the home without running wires will get attention.

I don’t typically favor scraping press releases into a digest blog, but this mix of topics struck me as a bit profound in showing just how dynamic the Wi-Fi world is at many tiers. Exciting, thought-provoking stuff that can be hard to keep up on.  Don’t blink, things change quick around here!

 

Nothing Magic About Gartner’s Quadrant When It Comes To Wi-Fi

I just digested the latest “Magic Quadrant for the Wired and Wireless LAN Access Infrastructure”, and I have a feeling I’m not the only WLAN professional or analyst that finds significant fault with what this once-decent “evaluation” has become.

Where to start with this train wreck? Maybe a little background is in order. Through 2011, Gartner dedicated a Magic Quadrant report to WLAN only, and one to Enterprise LAN. That changed in 2012, when they moved to  “Magic Quadrant for the Wired and Wireless LAN Access Infrastructure” format. And here’s where the problem starts. This thing doesn’t know what it wants to be… is it enterprise-oriented? Is it supposed to somehow capture the spirit of unified access? Is there supposed to be a decent analysis of the WLAN industry in here? I really can’t tell as it’s named and delivered. Despite Gartner’s overview of criteria up front in the report, it just feels bizarre when you dig into it.

You’ll notice this is not named the “Magic Quadrant for Unified Access”, which might more justify the “if you don’t have your own LAN switches, you can piss off as a WLAN vendor” reasoning that is in play here. But with a title like Wired and Wireless LAN Access, I’d expect to see companies that do LAN, WLAN, and both.  But since 2012, if a vendor doesn’t have switches AND a WLAN solution, then there’s No Soup For You. Forget that vendors OEM each others stuff, and that a company might be best of breed at either WLAN or LAN and mediocre at the other- you gotta have both to come to this weird party. Which leaves out some important players in the WLAN industry, like:

  • Ruckus Wireless – who happens to be rolling out one new municipal Wi-Fi deployment after another, doing many stadium deployments, and is visible all over my immediate area as viewed through the rogue detection on my own WLAN NMS
  • Meru Networks – who not so long was #3 in a market that was fairly defined as consisting of Cisco, Aruba, and Meru when it came to enterprise WLAN. Lately Meru is making noise in the SDN space, but more on that in a minute
  • AirTight Networks – An interesting newcomer to the WLAN access market (made the jump from WIPS-only), with growing market share and has been connected to some of the brightest technical minds in the industry (Akin, von Nagy)
  • Ubiquiti – like ’em or hate ’em, they are selling in volume, and are as viable of a Wi-Fi option as other players that made it into the Quadrant
  • Meraki – yes, Meraki is listed under Cisco, but even that is wonky in this context, as Meraki and Cisco have fundamentally different paradigms

Flash forward (clever plot device): D-Link made the quadrant, while Ruckus did not. 

Now let’s pick apart what is in the report a bit. Where vendors have “end to end” offerings that Gartner seems to harp on for this exercise, some of them are almost irrelevant because they aren’t “seen” the same way by those shopping for a solution. Adtran has a “complete” solution cobbled together from Adtran switches and Bluesocket Wi-Fi (purchased a few years back). Yet they are a niche player in the Wi-Fi world. Adtran made the quadrant, but Ruckus did not.

Aruba is a top-shelf, WLAN-centric market Force To Be Reckoned With.  They absolutely belong where they landed in the Leaders rankings. But Aruba is rebadged by Dell and Alcatel-Lucent. So Dell is “allowed” to combine their own switches with rebadged Aruba hardware to get into the quadrant… meanwhile, Dell made the quadrant but Ruckus did not.

The treatment of Cisco is pretty weird here, but that may be more Cisco’s problem (to a point) than Gartner’s. Though Meraki WLAN and Cisco WLAN are both technically Cisco WLAN, Meraki WLAN is worlds apart in functionality and approach from Cisco WLAN (I know, because I use them both). Gartner attempts to explain this, but when a product set like Meraki is reduced to being a bullet item under the Cisco heading, there’s something lacking in the analysis and delivery.

Uh… Huawei? Really? Guess what- Huawei made the quadrant but Ruckus did not.

For D-Link, I know pitting them against market leaders is unfair. I have no ill-will against D-Link, and frequently recommend D-Link products for the SMB/residential spaces. But Gartner’s own “cautions” outweigh the listed “strengths”, and the report stresses that D-Link lacks an enterprise reputation, and is a brand that “seldom comes up in conversations with Gartner clients”. But I bet of few of those clients ask about Ruckus on occasion.

Now that the SDN tide is rising (albeit not as fast as the media hype that goes along with it), the notion of “everything from one vendor” starts to be less important. Meru Networks, who I’ll remind you also did not make the quadrant, gets that. Fast forward down the SDN timeline, and the fact that a single vendor has switches and access points both becomes more irrelevant when it comes to what happens on SDN-enabled networks. Sure, you still need to manage the underneath networking, but many “single pane of glass” NMS are so poor at either WLAN or LAN that you’re frequently better off with one for each.

Finally, it’s my conjecture that Gartner is out of touch with who the WLAN industry itself sees as worth comparing. Each of these views shows head-to-head comparisons of various sorts by different vendors or IT experts (click picture for source doc):

rucktest


wlanshoot

merucomp

I can’t remember the last time I saw a bake-off between Cisco, D-Link, and Huawei. Can you?

So how do you fix the Flawed Quadrant?

I’d urge Gartner to consider any and all of these:

  • Bring back a WLAN-specific quadrant
  • The market is so striated, show some effective creativity. Quadrants for MSP-suitable wireless, cloud-enabled wireless, true enterprise WLAN and other tiers
  • Stick to single lines (break out Cisco from Meraki)
  • Do a “Rebadgers Quadrant”

Just shooting from the hip with these, but the point is that the current Quadrant is a defective vehicle, and I think anyone who drives it is getting ripped off.

What Meru and Xirrus Need to Do

I’m not a big deal, but I know a guy who is. And- I have pulled off San Jose’s most brazen balloon theft. These two facts combined qualify me to advise multi-national wireless networking companies on communications strategies. Here’s my advice for Meru and Xirrus, after visiting with both companies for Wireless Field Day 5.

Both companies are headed by obviously intelligent technologists who are passionate about their product lines. Each has well-spoken customers willing to testify on the effectiveness of their gear. Both are still in business in a pretty competitive space, and hoping to grow their shares of the WLAN market. And both have unique technical stories that set them apart from their industry peers.

And here is the problem.

For years, I’ve listened to a number of briefings with Meru and Xirrus and always walked away with a nagging sense that each is actually a bit uncomfortable talking about their  “specialness” to any depth when dealing with Classically Trained WLAN Types. Xirrus does the array thing, and Meru rocks the single-channel architecture groove. Both companies want to talk about their bigger stories, but many of us don’t feel satisfied with terse “trust us, it works” explanations on features that are radically different from industry norms. So… briefings grind to a halt because tech-analysts want to know why we should accept that these companies have actually found a different way to do things. But the companies’ speakers obviously don’t want to spend their camera time on these years-controversial details, and neither party quite feels great at the end of the experience.

And here’s the fix.

There’s certainly a fine line between disclosing intellectual property and being open with those asking pointed questions about your technology. But that line needs to be walked when you build product lines on unique technical approaches. Sam Clements and Keith Parsons are well within their professional purview to challenge Xirrus on how they can pack so many antennas into such a little box without them creaming each other, especially when other vendors sometimes bash Xirrus for their designs. And Chis Lyttle is proper in asking a few times for more info on Meru’s “special sauce” even if it slows down Meru’s onboarding demo. Tech people want to hear what tech people want to hear, and neither company tends to want to get into the nitty gritty that would get us all to shut up already and let them get our full attention on their latest announcements.

Each company should embrace the living hell out of their uniqueness. Lead with it, don’t tap-dance around it. Stick it in our faces with good, digestible white papers and diagrams that clear up the mysteries once and for all without giving away IP. That way, when we all get together again, Xirrus and Meru can not only deliver the Message of the Day, but actually get us to listen to it instead of badgering them for information on the little things they do that many of us have been trying to comprehend for years.

We’d all be better for it, especially Meru and Xirrus.