The company is trying to differentiate itself in the increasingly crowded market for Layers 2 and 3 WLAN switches and security-management appliances. It says the system will handle security and access management and enable users to search for rogue access points and the like, as well as controlling how and when users can access applications on the wired corporate network.
"We don't sell enterprise infrastructure," insists the startup's CEO Brad Mesch. "We sell software."
In fact, it looks as if the real competition for the company will come from enterprise management software players like Computer Associates International Inc. (CA) (NYSE: CA), IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)'s Tivoli division, and Novell Inc. (Nasdaq: NOVL). Mesch sees companies like CA and Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) as his main competition in the future. In fact, companies like CA are already working on incorporating WLAN management into their applications (see ReefEdge Simplifies WLAN Management With CA).
The two-year-old startup is currently partnered with the number one supplier of enterprise WLAN hardware, Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), through its Avid program.
Mesch see no conflict between Cisco's recently announced wireless LAN network management strategy and what his company does (see Cisco's Path to Switchdom). "We solve a problem for them," he says. "After all, Cisco didn't take Tivoli out of the market, did they?"
However, despite the software talk, Roving Planet's system does incorporate a couple of little black boxes to help it do its stuff. There are actually three elements to the product:
- The central site director (CSD) engine: a Linux-based rackmount appliance that is connected to the main switch in the network but is out of the data path. This communicates with the rest of the system to deploy policies and maintain the quality of service levels for users on the network.
- The CSD agent: another Linux appliance that sits in the data path between the main switch and the access points and enforces access policies, monitors traffic, and sends back usage reports to the system.
- The CSD control console: a Java-based application that runs on a Windows workstation and controls and monitors the whole kit and Kaboodle.
Roving planet has so far raised $3 million in funding. The company is in the middle of raising another "large VC round" now, Mesch says.
— Dan Jones, Senior Editor, Unstrung