SOHO Vendors Penetrate Business

In a new survey of pre-qualified IT administrators done with the purpose of figuring out WLAN equipment requirements in businesses today, In-Stat-MDR found some unsurprising results—that Wi-Fi networks are becoming an integral part of business networks—and one apparent surprise: a majority of IT people admit to using equipment from consumer/SOHO vendors in their networks.

“You don’t think of Linksys, D-Link, or Netgear as a traditional [enterprise] WLAN equipment provider,” says In-Stat analyst Sam Lucero. “But those businesses with more than a thousand employees, in response to the question of ‘what are you using,’ 32 percent of the responses said Linksys. 12 percent said D-Link, 9 percent said Netgear. Even 5 percent said Belkin.”

That said, perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise. Linksys is owned by Cisco, the largest seller of networking equipment in the world, both wired and wireless. The Cisco logo is found on every box Linksys sells.

It may boil down to how one looks at the market. Retail sales don’t automatically equate to selling to consumers, after all—a person can walk into Best Buy and pick up an access point for their office just as easily as for their home network.

While companies like Belkin and Linksys seem to stick primarily with the home market, both Netgear and D-Link have been working hard to bolster their position with businesses— at least on this continent.

D-Link media relations manager Darek Connole says, “Outside of North America, we’re known as a switch vendor. We’re the switch company. It’s only in North America where we’re a home networking company. We want our business plan here to be seen as by the rest of the world.”

To that end, the company launched a major program in November with value added resellers (VARs) to sell D-Link products into businesses. Such partner VARs get an advantage in both price and availability in selling D-Link network equipment.

“We have a subset of our product line that we consider business class that is only sold through distribution in the channel,” says Robert Robinson, director of business channel sales for D-Link. “It’s a solution sell.”

“There’s a big area of business—not quite small-to-medium businesses, not enterprise —that’s where we dominate,” says Connole of his company’s wired switch business. Wired sales are obviously starting to grow for them in this area.

Last week, for example, D-Link announced the AirPremier 2.4GHz (802.11g) Wireless Adaptive Access Point with AP Clustering (model DWL-2210AP). This unit, which does load-balancing and uses “adaptive clustering” to self-configure by communicating with other DWL-2210APs in the area, won’t be sold at retail at all. Only through VARs.

Does that mean an inexperienced IT person couldn’t go into a retail store and buy D-Link’s latest product, a home router with Gigabit Ethernet switch and Atheros-based 108Mbps 802.11g that gives priority to gaming traffic? Of course not, but Connole is confident that such confusion is minimal. “People playing online games, they understand that stuff,” he says, so hopefully IT does, too. He also stresses that while it’s pushing into business, D-Link has no plans to leave home networks behind, and offers this gaming router as evidence.

Confusion between what vendors believe and what IT believes continues, however. Lucera says, “Vendors assure me that with 11i and AES and whatnot, the security issue is less of a concern. But our survey results say that among those who refuse to put in a WLAN, security is the top reason.” In other words, security was more of an issue for them than simply not needing a WLAN. Even among the IT people who do have an existing wireless network, security is still the top issue for 41 percent of them, followed by roaming, range, and ease of implementation.

In-Stat’s report, “Security Is Paramount: Analysis of Business WLAN Customer Requirements,” is available now.

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