Foundry Pitches Wireless Switch
The market entry -- predicted back in May by Unstrung (see Foundry on the Switch Trail?) -- sees the vendor lag earlier efforts from wireline switch rivals Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) and Extreme Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: EXTR), as well as a host of startup offerings from the likes of Aruba Wireless Networks, Airespace Inc., Trapeze Networks Inc., and Vivato Inc.
In an effort to differentiate its offering, the company has opted to provide existing customers of its fixed FastIron Edge switch a software upgrade, due for release in December, to enable wireless LAN capability. Director of enterprise applications Philip Kwan believes the $995 price tag could give it the edge over rival switch products.
“A typical wireless LAN switch ranges from $6,500 to $12,000 dollars, so this is far more cost effective,” says Kwan. “We are providing a wireless service to our customers without making them purchase a wireless LAN switch.”
According to Kwan, Foundry hopes to implement its wireless LAN products in “40 to 50 percent” of its 6,000 customer base “over the next eighteen months.”
The company is playing down the potential for any negative impact from its late arrival, claiming that the inchoate state of the wireless LAN market, fueled by uncertainty over 802.11 standard ratification and general security concerns, prompted it to hold back until now.
“Our research last year told us that the industry was still evolving and nowhere near maturity,” explains Kwan. “So we decided to sit back and watch the market develop and enter in 2003. If we had come into the marketplace in 2002 we would also have released our product at exactly the same time that Trapeze, Aruba, and Airespace came out of stealth mode.”
Analysts are equally unconcerned by the vendor’s timing. “From a marketing and PR standpoint they are a little late, but it isn’t like enterprises are pounding the door down to deploy wireless networks today,” says IDC’s wireless LAN research manager Abner Germanow. “It is a good strategy -- it is giving its customers the opportunity to take part in this technology and making it as painless as possible.”
Foundry's Kwan is, unsurprisingly, in agreement with analysts and industry watchers who predict that only one or two of the herd of wireless LAN switch startups will survive to become viable independent businesses (see WLAN Switch Shakeout Looms? and So Extremely Sorry, Startups).
“We believe the large networking incumbents are going to be the ones that succeed twelve to eighteen months from now. A lot of the startups will either fold, get bought out, or will have to consolidate. Aruba, Airespace, and Trapeze have less than 120 paying customers between them. I know that one of them has less than twenty customers.”
— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung