So Extremely Sorry, Startups
As expected, Extreme announced its Summit 300 48-port Layer 2/3 switch today, configured to support both wireline and wireless applications, and a companion Altitude 300 "lightweight" 802.11 access point today, along with associated network configuration and management software (see Extreme Hatches Switch Surprise). The products are expected to ship next quarter.
As previously reported, the box follows the standard "smart media hub" approach for implementing a managed wireless LAN network in a corporate environment (For more on the debate over what exactly comprises a wireless LAN switch, see Vivato's Switch Bitch).
The entry of Extreme and other major vendors into the market (see Nortel Preps 'Security Switch') means that many of the products that the many startups in the market are expecting to ship in the next few months will be dead on arrival, according to Vipin Jain, VP and general manager for Extreme’s LAN Access Business. "I feel sorry for the startups," he says. "Customers don't want to go to a new player for this type of box." [Ed. note: And no one feels worse about it than he does...]
Chris Kozup, analyst at the Meta Group Inc. agrees: "I've always said that people will buy from established vendors rather than startups."
However, some startups may have a chance to win business due to their technological edge over the incumbents on the wireless side of things. Example: The Extreme switch does not support functions such as roaming among access points out of the box, meaning customers will have to buy a separate software upgrade to enable those capabilities.
"It looks as if there is a slight lag there in terms of the features being offered by some of the more aggressive vendors such as Aruba Networks Inc. and Trapeze Networks Inc.," says Kozup. "But it is not enough to keep Extreme out of the market." Extreme is charging $125 a port for the switch. Kozup reckons that with "Extreme's standard 25 percent discount" enterprises could be paying a "competitive" $100 per port for the switch. In five years time, the cost of offering wireless capabilities will be on a par with wired Kozup says.
Extreme is also planning to offer standalone access points next year. And Jain says the company will also look at supporting new radio technologies such as ultrawideband (UWB) when they come of age.
However, just as Jain expects the startups to be looking over their shoulder at the Extreme launch, he in turn is awaiting Cisco Systems Inc.'s (Nasdaq: CSCO) entry into the market. "This is just a fact of life," he says. "This is the only company we've ever competed with." (See Cisco’s LAN Switch: Build or Buy?.) — Dan Jones, Senior Editor, Unstrung