A recent review of 802.11n vendors by ABI Research found that a vendor's partner ecosystem matters more than core technology when it comes to Wi-Fi upgrades.
Companies must first choose the applications they want to run on a wireless LAN network. Then they can determine which vendors have the right partnerships in place to deliver those wireless applications.
"More and more, the key applications are driving sales," said Stan Schatt, research director for ABI. "For example, if you want to do video surveillance, vendors have video surveillance partners. Your talks with partners are going to determine [whether] you go with that wireless LAN provider."
This is particularly true for early adopters, which are usually driven by niche applications like location-based services (LBS), wireless voice and video, or access control, Schatt said.
He compared vendors on a variety of factors, ranging from reliability to antenna technology to channel partnerships. No company consistently ranked high across all categories, but Aruba, Meru and Cisco generally fared best, he said.
"Aruba and Meru both have jumped in early and established partnerships in healthcare and retail," Schatt said.
Aruba, for example, has partnered with Milestone Systems and Wren Solutions to provide surveillance and facial recognition services over a wireless LAN, according to Michael Tennefoss, Aruba's head of strategic marketing.
Schatt also noted that Cisco had established a wider base of industry partners than many other vendors, with more than a dozen targeted vertical industries.
But if your enterprise is in the transportation industry, he said, lesser-known Colubris might be the best fit to keep a continuous Wi-Fi connection while moving across town or cross-country. He also gave Colubris high marks for the total value proposition.
While companies can upgrade to 802.11n without too many worries that their hardware will be outdated when the still-draft standard gets finalized, Schatt did caution that, for now, a single-vendor environment is preferable, particularly because much of the 802.11n utility is still being finalized, and vendors' voice and video solutions, for example, are still a mix of standard and proprietary methods.
"Look at the applications that are important to you, and then find a partner you believe has the expertise," Schatt advised. "At this point, you'll probably … get going with a single [wireless] vendor that can support you."
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