Irascible Me

Irascible Me

By CWNP On 05/26/2010 - 6 Comments

I’m usually a pretty level-headed guy, but today I’ve got the itch. I need to rant. Every now and again my calm and collected (ok, I’m stoic) nature undergoes a metamorphosis and becomes obnoxious and irascible. So, here’s my scattergun rant about the things that bother me.

Perhaps I’m just a bit blind to its usefulness, but this whole WiGig & Wi-Fi Alliance partnership for 60 GHz Wi-Fi doesn’t seem like a big deal to me. Everyone acts like this is a major development that will change the Wi-Fi world, but I just don’t see it being that significant. Has anyone measured 10 meters lately? That’s not very far. To me, this is the equivalent of loading a sniper’s .50 Cal BMG cartridge into a pistol. If you aren’t into guns, forget my analogy. The point is that Wi-Fi at very short range just doesn’t seem all that important. I know, I know, the whole point of 802.11ad is short-range, high bandwidth Wi-Fi for video streaming across the “living room or den,” as numerous articles put it. That is my point exactly. How many living rooms or dens are there in your enterprise? And, even in the home, how much HD IP video traffic would it take to saturate a high-capacity 802.11n link (let’s say a 40 MHz channel, two spatial streams, and all the other commonly supported specs)? Saturating this link would take a pretty significant amount of traffic. Higher bandwidth is always enticing, and it is captivating to think about many Gbps via Wi-Fi, but this is a niche home solution. Throw rocks at me if you want, but I’m just not that excited.

The Wi-Fi Alliance takes me to rant #2. The Wi-Fi Alliance has done many good things for the Wi-Fi industry. However, I look around at the features, certifications, and standards that they’re working on, and they all look like consumer-level happenings. 10m 60 GHz Wi-Fi for the living room (home use), tunneled Direct-Link Setup (nobody use), Wi-Fi Direct (consumer use), and WPS updates (consumer use). There are a few enterprise developments in the hopper, but one of the few (I think there are around 3) is Voice Enterprise. They accuse the IEEE of being slow, but if anything has had a long gestation period and taken an AC_BE priority, it is definitely Voice Enterprise. And to me, standardization of fast secure roaming is a pretty big deal…at least, if you’re not Meru. I also realize that member vendors are largely responsible for establishing Wi-Fi Alliance’s priorities, but this is just frustrating. It seems to be all about the consumer and not at all about the enterprise. Maybe the Wi-Fi Alliance needs to create two separate divisions for two entirely separate markets.

Next on the list, I saw an ad a few weeks back for an enterprise AP boasting about “dual-concurrent” 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz 802.11n. This is more funny than it is frustrating, but I had to point it out. Is dual-concurrent 11n supposed to be special? I’m pretty sure everyone does that, and has been doing that since…well, forever. If dual-concurrent 11n is the best feature you can highlight, go ahead and pack it up now.

I had a chance to catch up with GT Hill the other week as he was passing through my neck of the woods. He said something that I really appreciated both on a personal and a professional level. That is, two of his life philosophies are “balance in everything” and “it’s all about perspective.” Of course, there’s context for both of them, but I want to run with the balance in everything idea here. Specifically, what bothers me is over-the-top, imbalanced aggressiveness in vendor marketing. I understand that marketing is intended to draw attention in one way or another, but I generally disagree with the theory that all press is good press. I am also a bit put off when vendors say “me, me, me” like a caustic two year old. In fact, some vendors flail, whine, throw tantrums, and get angry on Twitter like a two year old, too. The ancient Greeks believed that pride and self-confidence was a great thing, but that the Achilles’ heel of all humanity was overreaching pride—hubris. In other words, balance in everything. Current and potential customers will appreciate a vendor that regulates its self-promotion with a little fun, humility, and balance instead of short tempers, constant attacks on competitors, and unethical salesmanship. To observant customers, it’s easy to see what kind of business ethics are promoted within the company based on the company’s marketing tactics. I’m always drawn back to Chick-fil-a, which has good food, reasonable prices, fantastic service, and the most ethical and respectable approach to business you could ever ask for. Because people appreciate those values, they eat at Chick-fil-a.

Along similar lines as the rant above, some vendors intentionally mislead customers with confusing or vague wording that is intended to sound impressive. In fact, just recently there was a bunch of press from an up-and-comer who hired a third-party to say a bunch of pseudo-nice things about them. I say “pseudo-nice” because the commissioned report had very little technical content, as well as very little non-technical content that you could hang your hat on. In some ways I feel torn. On the one hand, vendors have a responsibility to be honest and up-front with potential customers, and customers have a responsibility to be discriminating in their consumption of vendor marketing. Either way, it’s a disappointing corporate reality that intentional ambiguity is a sales tactic. Sigh.

Here’s the stuff that really gets on my nerves. In the past few months, I’ve happened upon several product data sheets with blatantly incorrect specs. Two specific instances from different vendors were about support for transmit beamforming. I read the specs, contacted the vendor for more information, and quickly found out that, contrary to the AP’s spec sheet, they were not actually supporting beamforming. Ugh. I went back to one of the two vendor’s sites a month or so later.  No change. After more complaining, it is fixed now. Of course, they’re a big manufacturer, buying other big manufacturers, sorting through myriad acquisitions and such, so they probably didn’t have time to represent their products accurately. Sigh, again.

Similar to that above, some vendors—especially client vendors—hardly print any specs at all. This is probably the one thing that really grates me to high heavens. How are we supposed to adequately research a product if there are very few specs? I have to believe that in the age of information, scant or incorrect information is never a good thing. Tighten up the QA belt, share what you’ve got, and let us make educated decisions based on the information.

OK, one more. This is hardly worth mentioning aloud, but some vendors participate in very sneaky business tactics. I rue the thought that some vendors run up the corporate ladder and attempt to get IT managers fired after they select a different vendor. I’ve never seen this firsthand, but I hear the rumors. Political influence during the decision making process is a great bit of leverage and resourcefulness. In my opinion, vendors should use all their assets, be they technical or political. However, using political influence after a vendor has been selected is just plain dirty.

Sorry for the downer of a blog. I’ll make the qualification that my rants are a product of my limited perspective. I get to be picky because I’m vendor-neutral. I’ll be back to my regular nice self after this blog. I’m all worked up now. Maybe I’ll go fly fishing this evening.


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