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If You Can't Beat 'Em...

by Mike Feibus on May 1, 2018
Unlocking WiFi-1

The industry’s big boys are starting to talk the disaggregation talk. But can they walk the walk?

This spring, HPE’s Aruba, the second-largest enterprise Wi-Fi provider, took aim at Cisco’s all-in-one market approach with its new Mobile First Architecture, which the company described as an open architecture that lets customers mix and match the best tools from multiple vendors at competitive prices. The very same week, networking giant Cisco also began recasting itself as disaggregation-friendly.

Neither industry leader is diving headlong into Disaggregation Lake. Like Aruba, which is opening up the platform to alternative software and services, Cisco too is making its switches accessible to third-party applications. In addition, Cisco is offering its network OS on third-party hardware – at least for the carrier market, where the company has little choice but to move decisively to a more disaggregated model.

But neither company is opening up their hardware to alternative operating systems. In a sense, they’ve taken the Apple Watch approach: give developers the ability to make your hardware more valuable to customers. But don’t let anyone take control of your hardware.

Of course, Aruba and Cisco aren’t in a position to do that yet. Their profit models today depend on the inflated hardware pricing that bundling affords them.

At the same time Cisco announced its moves, in fact, the company also reminded customers why it believes they’re better off simply buying everything from Cisco: “The vast majority of our customers prefer to buy complete systems with world-class support from Cisco. Most desire a level of simplicity rather than the burden of having design and development teams creating and stitching together hardware and software,” Cisco said.

There’s some truth to Cisco’s prepackaged, frozen-food aisle logic. But as companies like Mojo Networks lower the bar and improve the benefits of home cooking, Cisco’s TV-dinner model will appeal to an ever-declining base.

So the incumbents aren’t yet walking the disaggregation walk. But they are taking baby steps in the right direction. Because while they know they can’t beat ‘em, they also know full well that they’re not quite ready to join ‘em.

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Mike Feibus is President and Principal Analyst at FeibusTech, a market research firm with coverage areas that include wireless technologies, privacy and security. Reach him at mikef@feibustech.com, or on Twitter @MikeFeibus.

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Topics: cloud, WLAN, WLAN networks, featured