Vendors are Getting Saasy

Vendors are Getting Saasy

By CWNP On 10/30/2009 - 22 Comments

Aruba started a competition that is beginning to get interesting.  Aerohive started a different competition that seems to be catching wind.  What am I talking about and who are the competitors?  Well, Aruba got down and dirty on AP price, so Aerohive got down and dirty on AP price.  Aerohive introduced a hosted WLAN management solution, so Aruba did the same.  Motorola (with Brocade) announced intentions of following suit, but we all know that big partnerships between big companies with big plans take big time.  I’ll leave it to you to decide who is leading the race, but here are the facts. 

Aruba drew a line in the sand about a month ago when they announced price cuts to their APs, $995 for the 3x3 (AP125) and $695 for the 2x2  (AP105).  Smokin!  Not to be outdone, Aerohive announced on Tuesday that their 3x3 APs (AP320 and AP340) are now priced at $999.  They also announced a new product, the AP120.  You’d be correct if you guessed that the 120 is 2x2 and priced at… drumroll… $689.  Do you smell competition?  Oh, and by the way, Aerohive also announced a limited lifetime warranty for their APs… wait, isn’t that similar to some other vendor that starts with an A? 

If you’re muttering to yourself that these similarities are just coincidental, read on.  Aerohive’s cooperative AP architecture removes controllers from the picture, which means there is no reason to keep the WNMS local just for management.  That’s why they’re giving the option of moving the WNMS off the customer premises and into the cloud.  If you’re guessing that Aruba is planning to remove their controller to follow suit, you’re wrong… but close.  Ha!  Anyways, Aerohive released a new solutions brief the other day about their SaaS.  Take a look here —I think I know who wrote that.  Now, is it too much to believe that Aruba announced Wednesday morning that they are making their WNMS available as a cloud-based solution as well?  Let me keep my opinion mostly out of this article by vaguely stating that this is not quite an apples-to-apples (anyone else love that game?) comparison.  I would very much like to go on and on comparing the two solutions’ architectures, cost models, feature sets, security, scalability, etc., but I need to stay on track here.  Suffice it to say that their similar policy-based configuration seems to have bred a bit of competition.  Before we move on entirely, Motorola deserves an honorable mention here as well.  Their press release announcing a partnership with Brocade had a heavy tilt towards hosted management.  It was very clear in the release that they intend to move many management functions to the cloud, including management for wired and wireless—infrastructure as well as WIPS—networks.  Aerohive’s entirely distributed architecture makes cloud-based management a slam dunk for them because we’re only talking about management—control and data are done entirely by the APs.  Similarly, Motorola has been beefing up their flagship AP (AP7131), so I’m curious if a similar architecture is forthcoming.  They already have independent (autonomous) and adaptive (controller-based) modes, so we’ll see if they shift the location of the control plane to match Aerohive’s model.  We shall wait and see.

With all of this competition and interest in cloud-based management, one may be wondering “what’s the big deal with hosted WLAN management.”  I’d be glad to share my conclusions.

1.  What is the easiest way for WLAN vendors to add a sales team without adding payroll?  VARs.  Resellers typically offer installation, maintenance, and troubleshooting as a part of a sale.  Hosted management for distributed customers makes the maintenance of customer networks far easier for resellers.  VARs should be happy with WLAN management in the cloud, and if vendors want to compete for the high quality VARs, their solutions have to appeal to them as well as customers—this is especially applicable in the SMB/SME space.

2.  Companies with decentralized networks, such as big-box and retail chains, as well as those with many remote offices, can manage and monitor their network remotely—from anywhere—and offload management traffic from site-to-site VPNs.        

3.  CAPEX is reduced.  For companies who want to minimize upfront costs, hosted solutions provide a delayed and steady expense instead of a high initial expense.    

These are just a few initial reasons.  Aruba addresses some others in their press release and Aerohive does the same in their solutions brief.  Read up and share your thoughts.  It seems to me that both vendors have compelling arguments for their solutions despite having contrasting architectures.  Anybody else joining the party?


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