Over the past several years, many new WLAN products have been introduced by leading vendors targeting small and medium sized businesses (SMBs). Two main product types have been used to target these businesses: Enterprise-class Access Points and Small Office Home Office (SOHO) Access Points. However, vendors have been bundling each of these products with different services and software that are customized – and in some cases, cost-optimized – for SMBs.
Examples of Enterprise-class customizations for SMBs include:
- Cloud-managed services with Enterprise-class Access Points (initially popularized by Meraki (acquired by Cisco) and Aerohive)
- Distributed Controller Access Points (popularized by Aruba Instant product line), or other systems that can control and configure multiple Access Points
- Software-based Controller (for example, Ubiquiti Wireless Unifi)
- Embedded controller in adjacent systems like Firewall (for example, DELL SonicWall or Fortinet)
There are many reasons why WLAN vendors have targeted SMBs with such products:
- SMBs typically have fewer people on staff that are dedicated to managing the network; a fact that cloud-managed services seek to address
- These buyers are typically more cost-conscious; most SMB-focused offerings are lower-priced than those targeted to large enterprises
- The total number of Access Points is generally fewer than for large enterprises; the control infrastructure has fewer computing demands when compared to those of large enterprises
- SMBs generally want fewer devices in the network; all four enterprise-class customizations address this demand
SMB WLAN Market Opportunity Likely to Exceed $1 B
In our January 2013 five-year WLAN forecast report, we shared our view that, “Based on our surveys, reviews of marketing literature, observations of the sales strategies of cloud-managed pure-plays, and our independent assessment of the merits of using cloud-managed systems, we estimate that 35% of today’s AP shipments could be cloud-managed.” Our viewpoint is that today, a year-and-a-half later, given the expansion in the number of products that have been introduced to address SMBs, we should update our view to include not only cloud-managed services, but also distributed controller access points or other systems that can control and multiple access points, software-based controllers, embedded controllers in adjacent systems like firewalls. In sizing the SMB and the so-called ‘Distributed branch office’ WLAN infrastructure market, it is also reasonable that, since these devices target much the same market as the SOHO Access Point market and even that of some other SOHO-class devices, we should include them in scope of our SMB WLAN market opportunity, which we estimate could approach $1.3 B in several years.