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

rwever 12/4/2012 | 11:39:40 PM
re: VARs Shop for Wireless It just hurts me to see VARs make it to be on a story for not being the responsible 'partner/consultant' to their customers. If price is the only factor for their clients, then (1) these VARs are bound to vanish out of business from the ridicously low margins and (2) they are not doing their job of educating their clients about the value of IT to their business. Those clients "asking for cheaper alternatives" are being cheated out of true consultants/partners/VARs that do understand the value of an enterprise-class wireless solution -even if it is not yet .11g !

So, if they say, why can't we go with D-Link, a cheaper alternative, don't just roll-over and play puppet, make yourself valuable and explain why one is better than the other: show them why Cisco (or others if you don't agree with me on Cisco) are better suited for an enterprise, and how that's light-years away from the residential WLAN setup your CEO may have at his "hut".
visionworks 12/4/2012 | 11:28:31 PM
re: VARs Shop for Wireless This is wise advice. VAR's by definition ADD something to the products they offer. No added value = no need for you. Capitalism seeks effciency and good managers squeeze from both ends. Increase sales and reduce costs or your replacement will. There must be a strong value statement for the enterprise. Everyone is outsourcing to save money long term, let's give them a reason to keep it up!
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