One WLAN Switch Too Many?

Back in the day, I did a profile of Inara Networks, one of the ill-fated “God Box” companies that cropped up in optical networking a few years back. A good pal of ours points out that there are many parallel between the god box companies of the optical era, and the WLAN switch vendors that the VCs are so fired up about right now. Last night at the hotel right across from our California Street offices, we stumbled upon a group of exuberant Wi-Fi entrepreneurs who were attending some sort of a Wi-Fi conference. (Notable factoid: No Wireless Internet Access at the Hotel Hyatt’s wonderful 13th views bar.)

The WLAN “switch” vendors – and there are many (e.g. Airespace, Trapeze, Aruba, and at¨ least a dozen more)¨ have caused a tremendous amount of confusion as to how the wireless gear space will evolve, our friend points out. I certainly agree. It is tough to distinguish between the pitches I keep getting to meet the companies. I am surprised by the sheer volume of pitches, but then Wi-Fi seems to be the only story to flog these days.

For the most part, these companies offer¨ hardware products–fancy, centrally managed access points. However,¨ feeling the pressure to differentiate from Cisco, these vendors¨ are focusing on unique monitoring and connectivity value propositions that, at least from a marketing standpoint, place them¨ squarely on the¨ fence¨ that¨ traditionally separates¨ infrastructure and management in¨ networking.
“The God box companies amply demonstrated that¨ in networking, products that try to be all things to all people¨ generally do not succeed,” writes our pal.¨ In wired networking, companies like Inara,¨ Alidian Networks Inc., Astral Point Communications Inc., Geyser Networks Inc., and Mayan Networks Inc.¨ positioned¨ their products to be jacks of all trades,¨ but proved to be masters of none, as evidenced by the dead links. The switch vendors are trying to apply a similar concept to wireless networking. Will they be successful?

What do you think? Please post comments and let me know! Who knows this might be fodder for some future article.