There’s a palpable buzz about BYOD, MDM and mobile virtualization and it’s often discussed as if infrastructure is a given, but it’s not. However, there’s good reason for the channel to care about wireless infrastructure just as much as the devices themselves. Wireless LAN is the linchpin of mobility.
Hardware sales are at a steady decline – it’s true. The move to the cloud has eliminated demand for on-premise equipment, nearly obliterating the need for an on-site data center. But there will always be the need for some level of infrastructure, especially since cellular data speeds have yet to match 802.11 performance.
A recent study by the Dell’Oro group has uncovered that in Q2 2012, wireless LAN revenues jumped 16 percent year over year. When constrained to just the enterprise, those figures reveal a 26 percent jump year over year. That should raise more than a few eyebrows.
What’s more, 802.11 technology is improving quickly, with 802.11n maturing nicely and 802.11ac in the pipeline. Together, these standards will bring near-hardwire speeds to the wireless ether. And with that level of performance, WiFi is no longer corporate luxury, it’s a real need. One analyst at Dell’Oro summed it up thusly. “Enterprises now consider Wireless LAN infrastructure systems to be just as important as their wired Ethernet systems, which is driving a need for combined management systems for wired and wireless access at the edge of the enterprise.”
Dell’Oro also noted this coincided with strong performance from wireless LAN vendors. No surprises here, Cisco Systems Inc. reigned supreme in market share,
for enterprise WLAN, with Aruba Networks and Hewlett-Packard right behind them. Interestingly, NETGEAR took the lead with the most revenue derived from WLAN, although Cisco trailed right behind it. Specifically for the service provider WiFi market, HP, Cisco and Ruckus Wireless were ”in a near dead heat for top vendor ranking.”
This should give the channel something to chew on, especially when considering a vendor to partner with. But it also means there are converged opportunities in enterprise mobility and wireless infrastructure. It’s not enough to offer BYOD/MDM stand-alone or looped into another networking package. A true mobility package must deliver linkage between a new computing paradigm and the infrastructure that supports it.
VARs and solution providers can approach BYOD/MDM with a conversation about what devices are to be leveraged, which can guide the discussion about what kind of WLAN deployment will be needed. From there, all other solutions can grow. This should making it much easier to implement and manage in the future, especially since the foundation for VDI or cloud mobility may already in place. In fact, this is the exact plan ADTRAN expressed with its MSP-centric wireless access points.
In short, despite its unpopularity, hardware shouldn’t be shunned. As 2012 comes to a close and 2013 rolls on, it’s clear that hardware has a place, so long as is specialized. Delivering laser-focused hardware/software packages will be key to driving successful mobility business and creating customer stickiness. If Cisco’s latest software licensing moves are any indication, it’s possible the hardware/software strategy Cisco has touted all along may pay its highest dividends in the mobility world.
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