While numerous IT sectors continue to hold promise for VARs and ISVs, developments on several fronts make networking waters especially worth charting. “Networking is an area that is truly evolving and exploding, in terms of vertical segments as well as technology itself,” says Steve Thorpe, president of Portsmouth, N.H.-based VAR Adaptive Communications (www.adaptcom.com). He points to significantly increased interest in networking services and products among insurance and financial firms.
Domenic Gianfrancesco, director of network solutions, Avnet Technology Solutions (www.avnet.com) corroborates Thorpe’s comments, deeming the retail and energy/utilities markets equally promising. Accordingly, the vendor recently launched threevertical market practices—EnergyPath, FinancialPath and RetailPath—designed to help VARs and ISVs address customers’ networking requirements with industry-specific services, software and hardware.
CUTTING THE CORD
There is a marked trend toward migration from wired to wireless as a primary network access method. “Wireless networks have become an expected element of all environments” and applications, including mission-critical ones, asserts Susan Jabbusch, vice president and COO of Cary, N.C.-based Carolina Advanced Digital (www.cadincweb.com).
The proliferation of mobile devices and end-users’ insistence on using them whenever, wherever and however they like are propelling wireless networking forward. “Mobile devices have been a true game-changer,” asserts Martin Hack, executive vice president of NCP Engineering (www.ncp-e.com). For one thing, the executive notes, the ranks of employees opting or assigned to work from multiple locations, across a range of mobile devices and platforms, are quickly swelling.
“Device-driven computing in the enterprise is the reality today,” claims Jay McBain, director of small and medium business for Lenovo (www.lenovo.com). “It’s driving the way networks are configured—straight to wireless.”
Moreover, demand for wireless network access outside the business world has grown equally strong. “Education makes a great example,” notes Robert Fenstermacher, head of global education marketing, Aruba Networks (www.arubanetworks.com). “Just a few years ago, maybe half of college students brought laptops to campus. Today, each student carries not just a laptop, but two or three other devices—and expects a wireless network to support all of them.”
Also pushing the wired-to-wireless envelope is the approval of the 802.11n wireless standard, coupled with capabilities that render it superior to 802.11a, 802.11b and 802.11g. “Ratification has made the standard mainstream, so end-users are comfortable going wireless even for mission-critical applications, like office videoconferencing and retail inventory management,” asserts Dilip Advani, product manager, AirMagnet (www.airmagnet.com).
Vendors and VARs say customers in many vertical markets favor the improved throughput available with 802.11n Wi-Fi, which reportedly offers four to six times the bandwidth available under 802.11 a/b/g standards. Other advantages of 802.11n over its predecessors encompass enhanced efficiency bolstered by MIMO (multiple input and multiple output) technology, wherein multiple antennas are employed at the network’s transmitter and receiver. MIMO accomplishes the boost via higher spectral efficiency, which yields more bits per second per hertz of bandwidth, and link reliability or diversity, which reduces fading. Additionally, 802.11n has the potential to support more users per single access point than its predecessors, with the extra promise of better performance from less equipment, observes Joe Epstein, senior director of technology, Meru Networks (www.merunetworks.com).
In early November, Meru Networks rolled out the AP1000i 802.11n access point product line. The entry-level solution leverages Meru’s Single-Channel, Virtual Port and Virtual Cell technologies to deliver what the company terms “wired-like-wireless connectivity” to enterprises that require mission-critical connectivity and mobility, but do not want to bear the high cost and complexity of microcell products, Epstein explains.
Elsewhere on the technology front, a desire to handle networking in an economical fashion, along with other factors, is garnering attention for solutions that support cloud computing networks. “This really is the next dimension of managed services,” states Ennio Carboni, president, Ipswitch (www.ipswitch.com). “In addition to the cost piece, there’s the reality that many SMBs favor the convenience of ‘webifying’ their networks and of taking the server out of the data center.”
Meraki (www.meraki.com) delved into this realm with its Meraki Enterprise Wireless LAN product, which comprises the Meraki Enterprise Cloud Controller and the company’s MR11 and MR14 802.111n wireless access points. The Enterprise Cloud Controller enables multiple remote networks to be managed from a central location.
Meanwhile, ever-increasing network traffic within and beyond end-users’ four walls, along with mounting security concerns, is fueling the popularity of sophisticated monitoring solutions.
“Changes in the way business is done, as well as in the technology networks serve, the way technology is used and the complexity of threats” are driving new requirements for network security” and control, purports John Black, president, Catalyst Telecom (www.catalysttelecom.com). “Defining the Next-Generation Firewall,” a report by Gartner, indicates, players in all verticals “are seeking solutions that can detect application-specific attacks and enforce application-specific granular usage and security policy,” both inbound and outbound.
“From a network bandwidth standpoint, our customers are facing explosions in their traffic,” affirms Patrick Sweeney, vice president of product management and corporate marketing, SonicWALL (www.sonicwall.com). “One saw its traffic double in the last year because of employees downloading HD television shows, videos and movies, as well as from Facebook and YouTube usage.”
While organizations want to use digital channels for marketing and other outbound activities, they don’t want these channels hogging unnecessary bandwidth, taking up unnecessary employee time—or, worst of all, unleashing a botnet on an employee’s e-mail that’s connected to the addresses of the companies’ top suppliers.
SonicWALL is addressing this market via its Next-Generation Firewall, which integrates anti-malware and intrusion prevention with the vendor’s enhanced Application Intelligence, Control and Visualization features. The firewall uses SonicWALL’s Reassembly-Free Deep Packet Inspection (RFDPI) feature to scan every data packet, thereby identifying applications that are in use and who is using them. Application Control enables flexible bandwidth management and enlists configurable application policies to throttle or block applications and files, URLs and e-mail attachments based upon application type, network user, schedules and custom signatures.
Similarly, Motorola Solutions (www.motorola.com) this past fall debuted WiNG 5 WLAN, a next-generation wireless LAN solution that distributes intelligence and network services to the edge of the network. “Pushing intelligence to the edge of a network is advantageous in that it simplifies control and protection,” explains Tim Mason, senior director for global solutions marketing, Wireless Network Solutions.
For its part, AirMagnet has unveiled updated versions of its AirMagnet Survey PRO 8.0 (including the AirMagnet Planner module) and AirMagnet WiFi Analyzer PRO 9.0. The latter is being touted as offering advanced WLAN roaming analysis that utilizes a multi-adapter capability to allow users to monitor every client roaming event in the network. Advani say this “root-cause analysis” of roaming issues helps mitigate reoccurrences of roaming-associated problems in the future by revealing to end-users the precise reasons for inefficient client roaming.