Over the past 12 months, the market has increasingly focused on network service applications versus hardware components due to the of lack of differentiation, according to Gartner's 2017 Magic Quadrant for wired and wireless LAN access infrastructure.
Gartner said organisations are no longer making buying decisions based on the speeds and feeds of the hardware, but on the software capabilities around automation, security, management and configuration. Applications at the edge of the campus network are the mainstay of the access layer and use information connected from devices and network equipment to make business decisions. Other emerging trends include new pricing models, including per-use connectivity, as well as the need for network assurances and SLAs in the access layer.
Gartner evaluated a total of 16 vendors around software - such as network management, on-boarding services, policy enforcement, application visibility, intrusion detection systems, location services - and hardware, including wired switches and wireless access points.
Gartner's Magic Quadrant ranks vendors on their ability to execute and completeness of vision and places them in four categories: niche players (low on vision and execution), visionaries (good vision but low execution), challengers (good execution but low vision) and leaders (excelling in both vision and execution).
The networking leader has the broadest portfolio of access wired switching and WLAN products in the industry. Cisco unveiled DNA Centre this year that provides network assurance to the access layer through insight from network monitoring, security, analytics and policy enforcement. The company provides two access layer offerings: Aironet/Catalyst and Meraki, while on-premises offerings include the new Catalyst 9000 as part of Cisco's Network Intuitive platform. Cisco is ranked a leader in execution and in second place in vision on the Magic Quadrant.
Strengths: Cisco has a robust set of services, including Software-Defined Access (SDA) and Network-as-a-Sensor with Cisco Identity Services Engine for internet of things segmentation, as well as encrypted traffic analytics with Cisco Stealthwatch to address security concerns. SDA is a programmable network architecture that provides software-based policy and segmentation from the edge of the network to the application.
Weaknesses: Cisco's Aironet/Catalyst and Meraki engineering and marketing teams continue to operate separately, and functionality is implemented differently between the two teams. Cisco still remains the market-share leader for access layer connectivity, but it continues to lose market share, according to Gartner.
Leader: Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company
Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, is the second-largest vendor in the wired/wireless LAN access layer with revenue share of 19 percent for wireless and 10 percent for campus in 2016. HPE-Aruba has a wide portfolio that includes WLAN controllers, a controllerless architecture through the Aruba Instant access points, and a cloud-managed offering with Aruba Central. Its Mobile First Platform is a software platform that allows organizations and third-party developers to access network, security and location insight. HPE-Aruba is ranked as a leader in vision and in second place in execution on the Magic Quadrant.
Strengths: HPE-Aruba's management and service applications, such as ClearPass, Meridian and AirWave, support non-HPE devices - including Cisco, ALE and others - which simplifies orchestration within multivendor environments. Its acquisition of Niara and Rasa Networks strengthen HPE-Aruba's network traffic and security monitoring capabilities.
Weaknesses: Aruba Central lacks the same functionality as its on-premises ClearPass and AirWave offerings, limiting its capabilities, according to Gartner. Aruba has also made changes to HPE's broadly available lifetime warranty for campus switches, which Gartner said may be confusing and increase the total cost for the Aruba offering.
Visionary: Extreme Networks
Extreme Networks has been on an acquisition spree, buying strategic networking assets from Avaya, Zebra Technologies and Brocade Communications. The vendor provides enterprise flexibility by delivering edge-to-core infrastructure offerings that can be managed from on-premises, cloud or hybrid network service applications. ExtremeManagement, ExtremeControl and ExtremeAnalytics provide network management, guest access, policy enforcement and application analytics for Extreme network components, as well as multivendor networks for Cisco, Aruba and others. Extreme is ranked third place in both vision and execution on the Magic Quadrant.
Strengths: ExtremeManagement is a single console that provides multivendor, centralised management applications for wired and wireless environments that can be deployed on-premises or virtually in a public or private cloud environment. The vendor has an experienced management team that is developing and executing its access layer strategy, said Gartner.
Weaknesses: Extreme now has three separate access layer architectures that will need to be rationalised. Strategic investment in multiple platforms may wane with time and not keep pace with enterprise requirements, according to Gartner.
Visionary: Mist Systems
One of the smallest but fastest-growing vendors is Mist Systems. Mist has seen over 200 percent growth year over year through its portfolio of wired and wireless components typically delivered in the cloud. In addition to guest access, network management and policy applications, Mist provides indoor location capabilities and virtual BLE beacon functionality for applications and asset management. Mist is ranked fourth in vision and near the bottom of the pack in execution on the Magic Quadrant.
Strengths: Mist dual radio access points have 16 integrated antenna elements for BLE and collect over 100 different user states, which are processed through a machine-learning engine. Mist's offering provides a complete view of metrics for the users of Wi-Fi and BLE data on the cloud console that can also be deployed on-premises.
Weaknesses: Mist has a small direct and indirect sales organisation that focuses mainly in North America. Gartner said the startup has higher-priced access points in a market that has continually declined in price.
In the past three years, the Chinese telecom and network giant has grown at above-average market rates, primarily in the Asia-Pacific and EMEA regions. Huawei's Agile Network Solution offers end-to-end campus networking focused on the education, government, public sector, hospitality and retail space. Many Huawei switches have integrated WLAN controller functionality, eliminating the need for a physical appliance and providing a more cost-effective offering. Huawei is ranked fourth in execution and fifth in vision on the Magic Quadrant.
Strengths: Huawei's Agile Controller platform offers programmability for tighter wired and wireless management and monitoring of network application services in branch offices that can scale up to 6000 access points and over 1000 access switches.
Weaknesses: The vendor has a limited machine-learning and network automation strategy that affect its ability to deliver on advanced enterprise access layer requirements, such as SLAs that need to act on the data instead of collecting and alerting IT, said Gartner.
Visionary: Aerohive Networks
Aerohive Networks provides public and private cloud management, as well as on-premises management for access points, switches and routers. With 87 percent of sales generated in North America and EMEA, Aerohive grew faster than the overall WLAN market with 17 percent revenue growth in 2016. The vendor's HiveManager NG comprises a full suite of access applications including network configuration and management, policy, on-boarding and provisioning guest access. Aerohive is ranked among the middle of the pack in both vision and execution on the Magic Quadrant.
Strengths: HiveManager NG can be deployed on-premises or in the cloud compared with competitors that often require two separate offerings. Gartner said Aerohive customers can monitor all end users through a client health score, which enables automatic corrective actions to meet preset SLAs.
Weaknesses: HiveManager NG's multivendor network management capabilities are limited to Dell's N-Series switches, likely deterring customers that must maintain hardware from other vendors, according to Garnter. Aerohive has limited machine-learning and artificial intelligence capabilities, affecting its ability to deliver on advanced enterprise requirements.
ALE, owned by China Huaxin, provides a unified access network portfolio comprised of Alcatel-Lucent OmniSwitch wired switches with either its OmniAccess Stellar wireless access points or from Aruba. For Stellar access points, the OmniVista application provides simplified guest access functionality, including automated on-boarding of guest or employee BYOD, social media login and device fingerprinting. ALE is ranked among the middle of the pack in both vision and execution on the Magic Quadrant.
Strengths: ALE's Intelligent Fabric technology enables automated configuration or reconfiguration of devices or applications, helping to reduce deployment time and related overhead costs. The vendor continues to expand the OmniSwitch line including its new 6560 fixed-format switches for remote offices and 6865 access switch for industrial or outdoor IoT deployments.
Weaknesses: ALE provides two WLAN offerings, an in-house or OEM option, which overlap in capability that can confuse buyers, said Gartner. The vendor also has limited machine learning, network automation and an indoor location strategy that will affect its ability to deliver advanced enterprise requirements.
Niche Player: Dell EMC
Dell EMC provides its N-Series fixed-port stackable Ethernet switches with Aerohive's wireless APs and HiveManager NG, which provide control and network services applications. The vendor also provides its OpenManage offering for management of either Dell EMC or multivendor wired switches. Dell is ranked fifth in execution and near the bottom of pack in vision on the Magic Quadrant.
Strengths: Dell EMC has an end-to-end wired/wireless LAN access infrastructure offering that can be deployed on-premises, as well as cloud-based network service applications. It continues developing and expanding its N-model wired switches with the addition of 802.3bz 2.5-Gbps and 5-Gbps ports.
Weaknesses: The vendor relies on Aerohive for new wireless technology development, giving Dell less control over its ability to respond to changing enterprise requirements, according to Gartner. Dell EMC has multiple access layer offerings, which may cause confusion or redundant licensing.
Niche Player: Riverbed
Riverbed acquired Xirrus in April to expand its SteelConnect software-defined WAN offering with an enterprise-grade cloud-managed WLAN offering. The addition of Xirrus' wireless portfolio provides a larger range of access points, the cloud-based or on-premises Xirrus Management System, as well as service applications such as its EasyPass suite of network applications. Riverbed is ranked among the middle of the pack in both vision and execution on the Magic Quadrant.
Strengths: EasyPass provides wi-fi device on-boarding, guest access services and policy control, including single sign-on for users with Microsoft Office 365 or Google Cloud. Xirrus adds additional sales and support resources, expanding Riverbed's ability to deliver an access layer solution, said Gartner.
Weaknesses: Riverbed-Xirrus has limited traffic and security monitoring capabilities beyond network management and device profiling functionality, according to Gartner. The vendor also lacks a machine-learning and a network automation strategy.
Niche Player: Juniper Networks
The vendor provides access networking through its EX Series wired switching and NFX Series service platform. Juniper largely relies on ecosystem partnerships for wireless and network applications through its Open Convergence Framework strategy that includes HPE-Aruba, Aerohive and Brocade-Ruckus. Juniper's Unite Cloud-Enabled Enterprise is an integrated framework providing automation, analytics and security from the cloud to the campus to branch networks. Juniper is ranked among the middle of the pack in execution and near the bottom in vision on the Magic Quadrant.
Strengths: Juniper continues to expand its security focus with its Software-Defined Secure Networks (SDSN) strategy, which delivers automated security policy enforcement to network devices via the Juniper Policy Enforcer engine. The vendor also provides choice for hardware and software components through its Open Convergence Framework.
Weaknesses: Juniper has a limited unified wired and wireless LAN access strategy because it must collect information from partners that are part of its open framework, but none are integrated into Juniper's network fabric. Gartner said Juniper maintains a well-thought-out campus switching architecture, but lacks control over a wireless connectivity road map that is an enterprise requirement.
Niche Player: New H3C
New H3C is a popular infrastructure vendor in China with a large portfolio of hardware and applications, including switches, WLAN, security and cloud computing products. Its intelligent Management Center (iMC) provides unified wired and wireless management as well as guest access. H3C's new Oasis platform provides wireless cloud management such as data analytics and basic device/user behavior analysis in a multitenant environment. China-based New H3C is ranked among the middle of the pack in both vision and execution on the Magic Quadrant.
Strengths: The Oasis platform provides management that supports network health inspection, user experience, wireless network analysis, troubleshooting and indoor location application services in conjunction with its Cupid indoor location services. Gartner said New H3C's fixed-form and modular switches are competitively priced.
Weaknesses: The vendor's iMC is a large network service application with many modules that Gartner said is confusing to organisations and requires additional training for network administrators. Over 90 percent of New H3C revenue comes from the Asia-Pacific region, with little traction in North America.
Niche Player: Fortinet
Fortinet delivers wired and wireless network capabilities with strong security applications that simplify management, troubleshooting and policy enforcement. The vendor's Secure Access Architecture integrates Fortinet's core firewall and other security capabilities into a unified access network. Fortinet's newest network security operating system, FortiOS 5.6, has extended network visibility and management under a common framework that includes switches, WLAN access points, sandboxing and security products. Fortinet is ranked among the middle of the pack in both vision and execution on the Magic Quadrant.
Strengths: Fortinet pushes real-time security patches and malware updates out to customers rather than providing them as periodic batch updates, which reduces the time that network elements may be vulnerable. The vendor does not charge a licensing fee for its infrastructure wireless access points, leading to lower cost.
Weaknesses: The vendor's unified network management offering enables management of Fortinet-only switches, access points and security appliances. Fortinet has several different wireless access point lines across its networking architectures, which Gartner said causes customer confusion about the interoperability and migration of the overall product line.
Niche Player: Brocade-Ruckus
Although Brocade has shed the majority of its business assets in 2017 to vendors including Extreme Networks, Arris, AT&T, Pulse Secure and Mavenir, the vendor provides unified access networks integrating its ICX wired switches with WLAN infrastructure from Ruckus, which Brocade acquired in May 2016 for US$1.2 billion. Both switches and wireless hardware in larger implementations can be managed and monitored by the Brocade Network Advisor offering. For wireless-centric deployments, the Ruckus Cloud wi-fi or SmartZone WLAN controller provides management and monitoring functionality at no additional licensing cost. Brocade-Ruckus is ranked among the middle of the pack in both vision and execution on the Magic Quadrant. Brocade is set to be acquired by Broadcom for US$5.9 billion.
Strengths: The company's CloudPath network service application provides device on-boarding, self-service guest access, security and policy management across ICX switches and Ruckus WLAN infrastructure. Ruckus SmartCell Insight provides predictive analytics and reporting that alerts IT organization of anomalies in the WLAN offering.
Weaknesses: Brocade's acquisition by Broadcom creates uncertainty in long-term strategies and road maps, according to Gartner. The vendor's switching fabric does not include the Ruckus controllers and access points, limiting the fabric benefits, as well as requiring a separate management application.
Niche Player: Allied Telesis
Allied Telesis offers an end-to-end wired and wireless LAN portfolio where customers can manage the switching and WLAN product portfolio on-premises with Vista Manager EX or in a private or public cloud using AMF Cloud. The vendor's new Unified Wireless Controller can be deployed as hardware or a virtual appliance. Its Autonomous Management Framework delivers a suite of features to optimise reporting and network management. Allied is ranked last in vision and among the middle of the pack in execution on the Magic Quadrant.
Strengths: All products operate via the same AlliedWare Plus operating system for uniform functionality, better support and migration. Vista Manager/AMF can be deployed on-premises or in the cloud and offers integration that provides deployment flexibility while simplifying network management and automation.
Weaknesses: Allied has limited functionality for basic applications, such as guest access, while also lacking a captive portal capable of automatically issuing guest access through SMS or email, according to Gartner. The vendor has limited real-time traffic analysis and security behavioral analytics that Gartner said will affect its ability to deliver advanced enterprise requirements.
Niche Player: Mojo Networks
The vendor provides wired and wireless access layer infrastructure with a portfolio of switches, access points and applications. Mojo Networks is a proponent of open standards and a member of the Open Compute Project Foundation, which helps drive the vendor community to open-source access layer connectivity. Mojo's cloud-managed Cognitive wi-fi offering has been optimised for large enterprise networks, as well as higher education and K-12 markets. Mojo is ranked last in execution and among the middle of the pack in vision on the Magic Quadrant.
Strengths: Mojo's intelligent cognitive architecture automates network monitoring and troubleshooting, allowing the network to detect, diagnose and resolve autonomously. Mojo AirTight is a wireless intrusion prevention system that provides protection from wireless vulnerabilities and threats.
Weaknesses: Mojo does not have road-map control and development resources of wired connectivity, indoor location and IoT containment, according to Gartner. The lack of multivendor network management support in Mojo's cloud means organisations need to be aware that multiple vendor-specific network applications may be needed.
Niche Player: D-Link
Taiwan-based D-Link provides wired and wireless solutions for the unified access layer, as well as other network and security devices. In 2016, D-Link released an 802.11ac AP, a new WLAN controller platform for larger configurations and a 10-GbE switch. D-Link has made investments in IoT offerings and introduced Auto Surveillance VLAN, which allows the support of a hybrid network that can handle data and surveillance traffic separately. D-Link is ranked among the bottom of the pack in both vision and execution.
Strengths: D-Link remains a low-price leader for a broad range of wired switch and wireless network hardware for enterprises. Its Central WiFiManager software comes at no cost to the overall offering, which addresses network management and guest access, making D-Link offerings very cost-effective for organisations with basic requirements.
Weaknesses: The vendor is not keeping pace with enterprise requirements, such as limited indoor location services, policy enforcement, network assurance, analytics and IoT strategies, said Gartner. The WiFiManager software supports only D-Link access points and cannot be deployed in a cloud-based model.