VARs Go Wild for WLAN

European value added resellers (VARs) of enterprise networking equipment are tooling up for an full-on assault on the wireless LAN market, according to sources throughout the industry. Encouraged by the slew of enterprise-class wireless switches, gateways, and access points now on the market, the VARs are partnering with a host of startup and established vendors in an effort to tap new revenue streams. At the same time, the equipment manufacturers themselves are busy wooing those resellers with the most lucrative customer accounts.

“Wireless is providing us with new opportunities, and we’re only just beginning to understand all the options with this technology,” says Ian Smith, managing director of Matrix Network Solutions, a systems integrator listed on London’s Alternative Investment Market.

“We’ve played about with various bits'n'bobs from 3Com Corp., Lucent Technologies Inc., and others, but not with an integrated wireless system before,” adds Smith, who has recently agreed a deal to resell Trapeze Networks Inc.'s wireless LAN switch.

Ian Shepherd, a solutions manager responsible for LAN/MAN networks at Telindus Group NV (Euronext: Tel.BR), a large European integrator, is also enthusiastic.

“Secure wireless is probably the biggest end-user pull-through we've seen since people started installing Ethernet; it'll be everywhere eventually," he says, adding that “things are now firming up in the larger enterprises after the early take, most of which was in the SME space."

Telindus sells Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Extreme Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: EXTR), Trapeze, and (in some European countries) Bluesocket Inc. equipment, depending on customer requirements.

Jim Kernahan, managing director of Wireless Airware Ltd., a provider of wireless LAN, freespace optics, and point-to-point microwave systems to 1,500 sites in the U.K. (of which around 400 are wireless LAN installations), says implementing wireless on top of cabled infrastructure is now in the top three or four priorities of most network managers.

“I’ve been in wireless LAN for 10 years, and in the old days it was a question of plug‘n’pray, but the technology has really matured. We do mainly Cisco and Proxim Corp. because they’ve been around the longest and they’re investing heavily in the future.

“The hardware is commoditizing, so we’re tending to focus on the larger jobs, consulting, and other solutions such as voice-over-IP and IP CCTV [closed-circuit TV] over wireless LAN,” adds Kernahan.

— Gabriel Brown, Research Analyst, Unstrung

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