I write this piece fresh on the heels of Day 1 of 2020’s Mobility Field Day 5. Mist (Now a Juniper company) talked for about six years yesterday, and it was fairly riveting, end to end. It was one of those marathon sessions that needs a little time to settle in your brain before you can resolve it, figuring out what you actually liked to hear and what maybe raised some red flags. Let’s talk about those red (well, maybe a pale red, sorta orangey-pink) flags that sprouted in my mind as I slumbered on the whole thing.
Mist Systems has had a fantastic run as a late-comer to a competitive industry filled with incumbents. That’s not easy, and their AI-inspired story has served them well. Now, we see the company moving i’s own cheese, and I can’t help but think about maybe a few areas of concern.
- Mist is no longer its own little WLAN product line bubble. Mist started off as a wireless-only product line. That let it focus on one discreet area with all of its development and quest for excellence. Sure, AI has been a key ingredient. But AI is not a magic wand. Just because you use it, doesn’t mean you have the Golden Ticket forever. NOW, Mist is spreading its methodology into the Juniper LAN side of its new house… the bigger you go, the more places there are for things to go wrong. The more opportunities there are for code bugs…
- Mist has finally introduced a respectable AP product line. Again, Mist has had the luxury of not offering many APs to date. Life has got to be easier on the development side when your product set is smaller, I’m guessing. We see it frequently from other vendors- certain model APs are prone to issues and bugs. Will Mist bump into the same sort of customer-facing shame now that they have some diversity of AP lineup? Or will their promised self-debugging whizz-banginess eliminate that as a potential? Time will tell.
- The um… well… uncomfortable thing to mention. I have the utmost respect for Mist’s senior leadership. Their results to date with injecting the AI/higher reliability story into an industry often fraught with overpriced buggy code suck speak for themselves. However- some of Mist’s senior folks come from that world of buggy code suck. They helped to author the very realm they now take potshots at. I mention this only to make the point that nobody is perfect with a perfect past, and that history sometimes repeats itself. In the buggy code suck world, complexity only exasperates the buggy stuff, and Mist, as an overall operational paradigm, is very much becoming more complex as it matures. Ergo… more opportunities to stumble? Hopefully, they can keep it on the rails and not fall victim to the past woes that some of their own Bigs have at least partial ownership of elsewhere in the industry.
That little burst of sunshine aside, it really was a thought-provoking session. See it for yourself here, and feel free to leave me a comment below.
In just a couple of hours we’ll dive deep into Mobility Field Day 5. I’m a delegate- one of those blogger/analyst/whatever folks fortunate enough to be part of this unique experience that lets us interact directly with Industry companies. Normally, this would be a week of limos, conference rooms, deep discussion, good food, and lots of fun. Instead, we’re all home-bound because of a pandemic. Whatever…
So what am I- the World’s Most Interesting Delegate- thinking about as I sip my coffee and contemplate the hours and days to come during hashtag #MFD5? Take these for what you will.
- Please No Politics. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear one CEO is running for public office based on their Tweet volumes related to political issues. I don’t want to hear it this week, personally. Not as a delegate, not as a customer. Move those communications to internal channels.
- Sensitivity to Budgets During COVID. Somewhat related to that first bullet… you don’t have to look very deep into the news to find that individuals, businesses, colleges, and organizations of every type are struggling or folding because of COVID. Budgets have been decimated for many out there. Now is not the time for the companies doing Field Day to be “giving” millions away to political causes while turning the screws on customers with heavy licensing that gets ever more granular with each product or feature announcement. You’re already making us rent what we bought in many cases. Read the headlines and show mercy.
- The Big Lie. By my reckoning, we’re years-deep into what I call The Big Lie in the wireless industry. A new standard comes out, yet many of the more exciting and heavily-marketed features simply can’t be used “yet”. Sometimes “yet” turns into “never”, but the marketing machines convince customers that by not going to the new stuff they are missing out on something. That something, as we’re seeing with the so far absent sexy features in 802.11ax, may or may not ever get here. Hopefully this week we hear some honesty and some hope in this regard.
- Super Systems are Nice- BUT RELIABILITY TRUMPS ALL. Year in and year out vendors come to these industry events to show off their most exciting innovations- as determined by them. Generally architectures get ever more complicated, ever more closed to assure Vendor Lock, and maybe a little more functional for day to day operations if we’re lucky. In some spots, corporate cultures never really embraced that QUALITY COUNTS. Our end users simply want to use the networks without constant bugs biting, and we on the network support side have long grown tired of playing Code Roulette. Maybe somebody will acknowledge that stability and reliability are as important as new features this week. That would be refreshing.
- APIs as a Copout? Let me start by saying that I understand and appreciate the general value of the API when it comes to wireless and networking systems in general. It’s a nice option. But… I also fear that certain vendors will skew the API paradigm in their own favors by giving us shitty Network Management Systems and touting that “oh that important feature is in the API” and then even worse charging us to be our own coders by requiring licenses to use the API to get at the features that should have been in the NMS to begin with. I hope I hear that I am wrong about that this week.
OK, so maybe I’m a little grumpy in the morning. At the same time, I’m guessing a lot of you reading this can relate. Agree? Don’t agree? Leave me a comment below.
Looking forward to an excellent remote Mobility Field Day.