Network administrators need more than an end-to-end wired and wireless access layer from vendors. They need sophisticated network services for onboarding, as well as security and management.
Wireless access has gone from luxury to priority. Many networking vendors have responded by filling in the gaps within both their wired and wireless networking hardware and software product lines. But unified networking and infrastructure connectivity isn't the only enterprise requirement anymore, according to the 2013 Gartner Magic Quadrant for wired and wireless LAN access infrastructure. Vendor differentiation within this crowded market will center on network services and applications -- like guest access and onboarding, and management and security, said Magic Quadrant author Tim Zimmerman, research vice president for Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc.
"IT wants to make decisions more homogenously," Zimmerman said. "They want one network management application, one security policy enforcement capability -- regardless of whether it's for the wired or wireless network and how users are choosing to connect."
Wired and wireless networks require integrated management functionality
Flat IT budgets, coupled with mobility and bring-your-own-device demands, have shaped networking requirements for enterprises. Network admins need systems that can quickly onboard new users and devices, while enforcing the same security policies with little intervention from IT. Replacing several management applications with a single application for the entire infrastructure access layer can save IT time and resources, Zimmerman said.
Aruba Networks, a leader in this year's Magic Quadrant, helps its enterprise customers manage access control and security enforcement through ClearPass -- the vendor's software-based platform that allows IT to onboard new devices, independent of whether the user is on the wired or wireless network, said Ben Gibson, chief marketing officer for Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Aruba Networks.
While Aruba's primary focus is on its wireless business, ClearPass can help IT onboard and manage access and devices over existing, third-party wired gear. "As the wired and wireless worlds come together, there are a lot of multivendor networks in existence," Gibson said. "Unified management across the entire infrastructure is what enterprises are looking for."
As wired and wireless networks become tightly integrated, security has become a bigger concern for IT. Hewlett-Packard (HP), also a leader in this year's Magic Quadrant, recently announced its Sentinel Security application for campus networks.
"Vendors are looking to provide solutions that will provide higher levels of security -- especially as environments move to all-wireless," said Bob Laliberte, senior analyst at Milford, Mass.-based Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) Inc.
Market consolidation on the horizon
As the wired and wireless LAN access market evolves and enterprises demand specialized network services, many vendors will form relationships with other vendors, or acquire technology to help round out their own product lines, Gartner's Zimmerman said.
"Large players -- like Cisco and HP -- may have the wherewithal to fill our their product lines where need be, but smaller companies will be likely looking to partner with other vendors in the future -- especially for network services, ESG's Laliberte said.
More on unified wired and wireless networks
Integrated wired/wireless LAN security? Not so fast
Managing wired and wireless networks together
Networking outlook: LANs finally unify wired and wireless
Enterasys Networks, a niche player in this year's Magic Quadrant, was recently acquired by Extreme Networks. The acquisition will likely put Extreme -- one of the four vendors dropped from the report this year -- back on the grid in the future, Zimmerman said.
Enterasys' centralized wired and wireless network management capabilities, along with its network management application, NetSite, will help to strengthen Extreme's position in the market, said Chuck Berger, CEO of San Jose, Calif.-based Extreme Networks.
"One of the prime benefits [Extreme] will garner from the acquisition of Enterasys is their internally developed wireless product line," Berger said. "Broader and deeper product lines and scale should combine to make us a far more appealing vendor from the customer's viewpoint."
"We expect other vendors to follow suit with similar moves and acquisitions in order to achieve, or to maintain, their relevance in this market," Zimmerman said.