The 2014 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Wired and Wireless LAN Infrastructure came out recently, and the leaders, Cisco, Aruba and HP appear to have pulled further ahead of many of their competitors from 2013, according to Gartner analysts Tim Zimmerman, Andrew Lerner, Bill Menezes, but only by treading water.
First, here is the Gartner Magic Quadrant from 2013:
And here is this year’s Magic Quadrant:
Here is what Gartner reported the changes are over the last 12 months in its headline “What’s Changed.” Gartner analysts have noticed an increased focus on mid-market and small-to-medium size business needs in wireless. Correspondingly, vendors are focusing less on “large, one-size-fits-all” solutions and more on “line-item applications that provided specific business value, such as guest access, policy management, onboarding and network management.” In addition to the usual M&A activity, Gartner also noted ” fewer RFPs from client inquiries focusing on the speeds and feeds of access layer connectivity as hardware prices continue to decline,” while seeing more focus on applications and unified access layer management as key differentiators by customers.
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Gartner’s 2014 report also contains some changes that didn’t make it into their “What’s Changed” headline and that I didn’t immediately notice from a cursory glance at the two graphs above. What jumped out to me after a deeper review was the dropping off of former challengers Dell, Huawei and D-Link down into the “Niche-Players” quadrant.
D-Link appears to have suffered a rather dramatic fall in its “ability to execute.” Specific to D-Link, whereas in 2013 Gartner had cautioned potential buyers about relying on D-Link for more complex or enterprise-scale business needs and not having brand recognition as a business solution, the 2014 Gartner report contains some new cautions. In addition to lacking a brand reputation as a business solution, Gartner dinged them for not coming up in in conversations with its clients (a result of the lack of brand recognition, perhaps?), lacking many enterprise features that the leading competitors have, and for its inability to provide SaaS cloud-based management for its SMB clients “a small subset of its portfolio.”
Dell was dinged in 2013 for using, and therefore being dependent on the direction Aruba wireless technology. In addition to a somewhat harsher sounding but essentially similar critique in 2014, Dell was noted as having “weak WLAN growth” and for not being able to respond quickly enough to changes in the market. Additionally, Dell stands accused of offering “limited differentiating value” on top of its Aruba-based wireless solution set. Finally, Dell’s Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) Cloud Management offering was not not considered SaaS-y enough by Gartner.
The major change for Huawei over the past year in terms of Gartner’s cautions is that while the Chinese company’ “executes well on the core functionality” it does not provide the extra, differentiating ” capabilities in areas of emerging requirements” that Gartner believes are becoming more important in separating the chaff from the wheat. Similar issues from last year include limited market presence outside the Asia/Pacific and lack of good marketing and communications despite a “technically capable” product.
The result is that the “Challengers” quadrant is now devoid of challengers to industry leaders.
Other companies did not fare well, either, even if they did not entirely shift categories. Alcatel-Lucent and Avaya, while remaining in the “Visionaries” Quadrant, both appear to have suffered declines in “completeness of vision” and “ability to execute” over the past 12 months, with both now just a stone’s throw away from the “niche-players” category.
Alcatel-Lucent appears to be suffering this year in Gartner’s opinion due to uncertainty over the French company’s sale of its enterprise division to the Chinese company Huaxin in February as part of Alcatel-Lucent’s turnaround plan. Similar to Dell and D-Link, Alcatel-Lucent was criticized for not having good SaaS management capability at present, although mention was made of a planned Q3 2014 enhancement of its OmniVista platform. Avaya faces new challenges in 2014 from not having a separate access layer solution for customers that don’t need the rest of Avaya’s technology suite, as well as a declining marketshare for its enterprise data/access layer sales.
These companies at least weren’t dropped completely, at least, from Gartner’s report. That is the fate for two companies featured in 2013 but not this year, Fortinet and Netgear. The major change in terms of Gartner’s inclusion/exclusion criteria is a focus on having at least a road-map to 802.11ac. If not, then the company’s out. NetGear makes some sense, as their AC solution is geared toward home-use, while their enterprise solutions are strictly 802.11n. Fortinet does have enterprise 802.11ac capability, however, and because Gartner does not divulge why any specific company gets dropped in its report, divining Gartner’s thought process here is hard (without getting cynical, that is). Gartner also dropped several other vendors in 2013 that Solutions Review believes are at least worth buyers’ consideration, namely Brocade, Meru and Ruckus.
There is also one replacement, which could also be called a comeback: Extreme Networks, dropped in 2013, has reappeared on Gartner’s graph in 2014 due to its purchase of Enterasys Networks. Extreme Network’s position, while still a niche player, has improved over Enterasys, specifically seeing an increase in the ability to execute. Of course, Enterasys had to cease to be an independent entity for Extreme Networks to be there, and it’s still a very crowded world down there in niche player-land. Such is the world of WLAN.
So who are the big winners? Four companies have survived or even thrived during the Gartner culling.
There are three survivors, who by virtue of surviving, win (i.e. not greatly changing in position while mostly everyone else falls back). Cisco, Aruba, and HP have retained their crowns as Gartner Leaders. Cisco remains at the top of the whole heap, and while Aruba and HP have bounced around a little, the changes are small enough for them to keep within the Leaders’ quadrant. That said, HP has declined in Gartner’s opinion in terms of “completeness of vision,” leaving it near the border with the now empty challengers’ quadrant. Last year’s cautions of HP mostly focused on the need for training to handle HP’s systems, while this year focused on issues around scaling HP’s 830 Unified Wired-WLAN Switch Series for enterprise environments. Also, while HP’s Intelligent Management Center (IMC) application is noted as having good features, Gartner did not like the software’s pricing options or server requirements.
Finally, clawing its way out of the Gartner bloodbath, up from the shadows of being a niche player and into the light of the Visionaries quadrant is the spunky Xirrus. Gartner liked the modularity inherent in Xirrus design, as it enables extremely easy upgrade capability from N to AC wave 1 and then to AC Wave 2. Scalability of the array design also results in a minimized need for cabling and switching, resulting in a lower total cost of ownership in Gartner’s opinion. Finally, Gartner liked Xirrus’ cloud management technology features, especially noting “zero-touch provisioning of the entire access layer” and automatic license activation. It will be interesting to see if Xirrus can improve its ability to execute enough over the next few years in Gartner’s estimation to make the jump into the Leader category.
Assuming that Gartner’s inclusions and evaluations are not cynically driven by how much companies pay them, it’s clear that some companies are struggling to adapt to the rapidly changing technology environment, and that vendors will need to run fast to stay in place.
To access Gartner’s 2014 Wired and Wireless Magic Quadrant report from Gartner directly for $1,995.00, click here.
Or get the Free Solutions Review 802.11ac Wireless Buyers’ Guide here.