Tag Archives: WLAN as a Service

Mojo Networks Touts Lower Networking Costs, No More Vendor Lock-In at Mobility Field Day 2

Mojo Networks never fails to provide an interesting presentation. Recently, I sat in Mojo’s conference room in San Jose for the fourth time in roughly as many years to hear what the company is up to, and what their vision for the future is. At Mobility Field Day 2 (MFD2) I found myself fairly riveted to CEO Rick Wilmer’s introductory session. Why? Because if Wilmer’s vision of WHAT COULD BE takes root, it could disrupt the WLAN industry (and beyond) in some profound ways.

Wilmer pulled no punches describing what the typical margin is for wireless access points sold to customers- 70%. That’s 70% per AP, times hundreds of thousands of APs generating much revenue for WLAN vendors. Wilmer sees a world where the advantage shifts to the customer when it comes to wireless access points, but we’ll get to that.

Then there’s vendor lock-in… I remember back in the early days of LWAPP (the thin AP protocol), I had very naive and childish visions of a protocol so sparkly-wonderful-special that I might be able to mix components from Vendor A and Vendor B on the same damn network. I was all a-tingle, for about 30 seconds. Then I was slapped with the reality that what comes out of the antennas might be mostly-standards-based, but there is and would continue to be zero compatibility between vendors under the hood. Ah well, I was a silly wireless child then. But Wilmer’s vision touches that as well.

If you watch the MFD2 Wilmer session, you’ll not hear a CEO harping on buzzy claims of Machine Learning and crazy wonderful feature sets. (That all comes later in Mojo’s other presentations, and even then what could be a Bucket o’ Buzzwords is really just incorporated into what Mojo does, versus the vendor hanging a bunch of impressive terminology in the air and hoping that you salivate over it.) Wilmer paints a vision of commodity-priced access points- and eventually switches and security appliances- being cloud managed in an open source framework where innovation is driven by the greater technical community instead of any single vendor’s skewed view of the feature world.

Cloud management, software-defined everything, and open hardware standards CAN replace bloated, proprietary systems as shown in different examples made by Wilmer’s team in presentations that came after his. The technical stuff is interesting, and you should watch Mojo’s story from MFD2 all the way through. But just as significant is Mojo’s idea of a new business model that flies in the face of convention, and could capitalize on the success of the Open Compute Project (OCP) in building white box data center components as that model stretches into wireless access.

It’s a fairly bold premise, and I applaud Mojo for taking a truly unique and interesting path. Hopefully they find some big allies soon to help push this vision along.

See Mojo Networks at Mobility Field Day 2 here, and catch up on all things Mojo at the company’s blog.


Some of my past coverage of Mojo Networks (and Airtight)

Ruckus Goes Cloud-Enabled Revenue- Introducing SAMS

SAMS is Ruckus Wireless‘ newly announced Smart Access Management Service, that promises “smart Wi-Fi” in the cloud”. Targeted at public access, the SAMS solution is built to allow customers with public hotspots to generate revenue off of their WLAN investment. SAMS is not a general purpose managed services framework. We’re talking monitizing the non-enterprise public access paradigm when we talk SAMS.

With the purpose of SAMS defined, let’s look at the underpinnings.

This is a Ruckus Wireless offering, so the access points, controllers, and management and reporting aspects of SAMS are of Ruckus componentry (with controllers onsite or in the cloud) and also dovetail with other established Ruckus Features like SPoT location services. Hotspots in public venues- from retail spaces to airports to stadiums- can provide recurring revenue while servicing clients with the new SAMS Smart Wi-Fi as a Service. When the new SAMS cloud-based management service is turned loose on Ruckus’ hardware by a Big Dog channel partner, it promises a new ease of network design and management with a fresh option for profit-generation that Ruckus considers unique in the industry as a single integrated framework.

As I read through the promotional, the steps of subscribing to a cloud account and configuring the network settings that will be used in deployment feel somewhat akin to the Meraki (and Aerohive, and AirTight and…) mechanisms that let you get it your networking straight and functional through a cloud dashboard. This is all well and good, but hardly disruptive. But then we get to the “monetizing” part, and SAMS gets interesting.

Each SAMS Wi-Fi network has a configurable “user journey” registration page. Customizations allow for vendor branding, sponsored content presented before or during login, and a number of options for customer engagement. The flexibility that can be leveraged to bring a business-interactive experience to customer hotspot login is impressive.

ruckus1

At the same, it means clients are subject to a very controlled login in exchange for hotspot access. Even though it’s a fair trade, part of me personally despises being “monitized” as opposed to just getting connected. Ah well- that’s my problem, and no one is making me use the hotspot Wi-Fi.

No good management system is complete without effective reporting, and SAMS has a serious analytics and demographics engine that reports on user parameters like OS, new versus returning users, gender, age, and more in customizable time slices. You don’t get info like user gender and age without either asking or mining the likes of Facebook, and SAMS can facilitate both depending on how you choose to implement.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it’s amazing how wireless is becoming about so much more than simple client access. Ruckus’ SAMS is certainly another case in point, and at well under $300 per AP per year I’m guessing a lot of Ruckus customers and channel partners are going to like the new offerings.

See more on SAMS here and here (no link yet available on Ruckus site, will update later). Video introduction, if that’s your pleasure.

 

Bluesocket Lives, Evolves Into Managed WLAN Services Offering Under ADTRAN

Back in the day, Bluesocket was THE commercial captive portal for wireless networks. As WLAN in general gained broader acceptance and the market widened, Bluesocket also started providing access points and morphed their captive portal appliance into a controller (like the WLAN big guns were starting to use with thin APs.) As this was playing out, Cisco, Aruba, and at the time Meru, were largely dominating the market and Bluesocket  didn’t generate a lot of buzz anymore. But- nor were they “over”.

My Own Bluesocket History

I have covered Bluesocket through the years for my column in Network Computing, like when the company introduced their initial controller offering, and then their virtual controller option. Network Computing also covered ADTRAN’s acquisition of Bluesocket in a piece done by colleague Steve Wexler.

On the personal front, I helped pre-ADTRAN Bluesocket develop a new guest access feature set that perfectly fit the needs of my University when our native Cisco wireless guest option was anemic by comparison. To this day we still  use the Bluesocket portal for guests, and though it may be a bit dated, it still has amazing administrative flexibility and works great for letting guests self-sponsor or be sponsored based on cell phone number as user name. (I made more than one plea for both Bluesocket and ADTRAN to spin this off as a separate product but they didn’t bite.)

Bluesocket also donated controllers that I took to Haiti on a humanitarian IT visit  that serve as the functional heart of two networks on University of Haiti campuses that me and my fellow volunteers created.

You could say I have a bit of a soft spot for Bluesocket given my history with the company and their products.  But after the ADTRAN acquisition, the already small player in the WLAN space seemed to get even quieter. But wait…

With their latest announcement, ADTRAN’s Bluesocket may be on to bigger things.

Following similar recent announcements by Meraki and PowerCloud, Bluesocket is throwing their hat into into the cloud-managed hosted WLAN ring.

ADTRAN calls their new offering ProCloud, and it hopes to empower channel partners, integrators, and service providers with the ability to provide hosted enterprise-grade WLAN offerings to customers built on established the Bluesocket vWLAN magic-in-the middle.

Also announced are ProStart (installation, service, and training for customers that can’t do their own wireless for whatever reason)  and ProCare (customer-selectable maintenance support options.)

See ADTRAN’s page on ProCloud,     and Business Wire press release.

Wireless is certainly a competitive landscape to begin with, and the expanding managed WLAN pot is starting to simmer with interesting players jumping in.  Though I get that ADTRAN and competitors see the hosted WLAN thing as an easy service-add for partners that don’t yet really offer wireless, I hope those who follow this path all don’t lose site of the fact that “easy wireless” doesn’t  automatically equal “good wireless” and that proper design and policy are still the cornerstones of successful WLAN.

I wish ADTRAN and my old Bluesocket friends best of luck in their new venture, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who will be following how managed wireless services will impact our industry.