VARs Shop for Wireless

VARs and system integrators tout alternatives to Cisco 802.11 gear

August 4, 2003

2 Min Read
VARs Shop for Wireless

Automatically picking Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) to get business-class 802.11 performance is not always the wisest option, say European value added resellers (VARs) hopped up on the juicier margins and "smarter" features offered by many of the alternative suppliers now in the market.

“Some customers won’t buy anything other than Cisco. They have a great name and most people ask for [Cisco], but we've started to convert quite a few customers, and in terms of installations we're probably doing less than 50 percent Cisco nowadays." says Matt Day, director of MaxNett, a British network consultancy and integrator.

“We’ve had a lot of experience with Cisco in wired networking, but in wireless they’re a little slow on the uptake," says Day. "From a technical point of view they're always behind and they're really expensive," he adds, referring to Cisco’s slow adoption of the 802.11g (54 Mbit/s over 2.4 GHz) standard. Instead, he often advises cheaper, less glamorous products from vendors such as D-Link Systems Inc. because they do "pretty much the same thing for a fraction of the cost."

Ian Shepherd, a manager responsible for LAN networks at Telindus Group NV (Euronext: Tel.BR), says customers are more open-minded about wireless LAN because even IT managers are often introduced to the technology via low-end SOHO (small-office/home office) products. "It’s not like buying a router, and I don’t think Cisco is as dominant in wireless," he explains. "We're also offering the Extreme Networks Inc. and Trapeze Networks Inc. wireless LAN switches."

In contrast, Neil Hunt, wireless product manager for Skynet Systems, says he’ll always recommend Cisco wireless products, no matter what.

"We’re the third-largest Cisco shop in the U.K., and the largest in the education sector," he offers by way of explanation. "Sometimes where there’s a particular security requirement, we install Bluesocket Inc. gateways alongside Cisco, but they're complementary, and Bluesocket themselves will tell you they aren’t trying to compete with Cisco; they don’t go directly up against them."

But despite Hunt's admirable loyalty to Cisco's gear, the upshot of the wireless LAN explosion is that clued-in customers will likely start considering the raft of alternative products now on the market -- regardless of their historical brand allegiance.

— Gabriel Brown, Research Analyst, Unstrung

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