Cisco continues to be the global market-share leader for access layer connectivity, owning the broadest wired and wireless portfolio. Cisco has two offerings – its on-premise offering that includes a deep wired switching portfolio through its Catalyst line of switches; and Cisco Meraki with its own separate switches, APs and cloud-based systems Manager for policy and management

Cisco continues to invest aggressively in its access layer space, releasing its Hyperlocation module, Mobility Express, and APIC-EM over the past year

Strengths. Cisco has made advances in location granularity with its new Hyperlocation module that enables its Aironet APs to locate and track wireless clients. The company’s CMX also provides Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and Wi-Fi location services, an application toolkit and reporting capabilities that include analytics

Weaknesses. Cisco has two access layer connectivity product lines that are developed by separate development teams with different features. In addition, inconsistent user interfaces and different capabilities remain for security, guest, network management and policy enforcement


HPE-Aruba is now the second-largest vendor in the wired and wireless LAN access layer market with almost
20 percent wireless revenue share and more than 10 percent revenue share for access layers worldwide

HPE offers its FlexNetwork core switching and branch routing product portfolio along with Aruba’s wired and wireless LAN product family. Aruba also provides a cloud offering through Aruba Central and end-to-end location services with remote beacon management tools via Aruba Meridian

Clients report a high degree of satisfaction with Aruba’s ClearPass offerings, which provide guest access, device profiling, posture assessment and on-boarding. A wide variety of HPE switches come with hardware lifetime warranty and the company also offers free technical support for three years on most Aruba switches, HPE FlexNetwork, and OfficeConnect

Weaknesses. Aruba’s AirWave and ClearPass offerings are supported on Aruba switches, but not at the same level of support and functionality available on legacy HPE switches. Aruba Central lacks the same functionality as its ClearPass and AirWave offerings

Extreme Networks

Extreme Networks offers a broad portfolio of enterprise wired and wireless products, with nearly 80 percent of its sales derived from its channel partners. The San Jose, Calif.-based vendor’s ExtremeManagement, ExtremeControl and ExtremeAnalytics provide network management, guest access, policy enforcement and application analytics for Extreme components as well as other LAN vendors

Strengths. The company has a strong flow-based packet processing technology and application control embedded at every point in the network. Extreme Wireless APs provide management for on-premise or cloud using the same hardware, while offering investment protection for either mode of deployment.

Weaknesses. Extreme’s offerings do not seem to have been as aggressively priced compared with its competitors in the market

Brocade-Ruckus Wireless

Brocade Communications completed its acquisition of Ruckus Wireless in May 2016, allowing Brocade to offer both access wired switching and WLAN components. The San Jose Calif.-based company offers a controller-based WLAN architecture that can be delivered on-premise or in the cloud and supplemented by a controllerless stand-alone offering: Unleashed

Prior to the acquisition, Ruckus released a new version of SPoT -- its cloud-based Wi-Fi indoor location service -- while Brocade recently launched a new campus fabric offering

Strengths. Ruckus’ APs and Brocade ICX switches both have the flexibility to be reused across multiple network architectures. Ruckus’ APs can be used in controllerless, cloud, virtual and hardware-based controller implementations, while Brocade’s ICX can be reused in stacking or fabric architectures

Weaknesses. The company’s Cloudpath has limited enforcement capabilities. Enterprises should review the company’s change in coverage and future product road maps as both Ruckus and Brocade have multiple strategic networking partnerships prior to the merger that could be affected


Over the past three years, Huawei has grown at above-average market rates, gained revenue share and expanded its presence in EMEA. Huawei provides an end-to-end campus networking offering, Agile Network Solution, as well as a campus Agile Controller that integrates user policy management, guest access, location services and data analytics for up to 6,000 APs

Strengths. Many of the company’s switches have integrated WLAN controller functionality and software-defined networking is central to Huawei’s strategy. Huawei’s eSight management and network application support both Huawei and competitive-vendor components, including Cisco and HPE, which can also be deployed in a multitenant cloud environment

Weaknesses. Less than 40 percent of Huawei’s revenue is generated from outside China, with less than 1 percent of its 2015 worldwide revenue coming from North America. Clients report a need for more local-language support and need for better user documentation


One of the smallest vendors in the list, Aerohive Networks moved up to the No. 5 WLAN vendor last year when measured by revenue. The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company sells 100 percent through the channel with strategic partners including Dell and Juniper Networks

Aerohive provides a controllerless architecture with the full suite of access applications through its HiveManager software including guest access, policy management, analytics, provisioning and network management. HiveManager can be deployed either as an on-premise application or as a cloud-managed service

Strengths. Customers cite simplicity in deployment and ease of use for both cloud managed and on-premise deployments as key benefits compared to competitors.  The company’s HiveManager has a set of external APIs that allow partners and customers to extract their own contextual reporting and analytics.

Weaknesses. Aerohive has a limited wired switching portfolio and indoor location services availability. As one of the smaller players in the market, the company has limited visibility and penetration outside its core markets of education, retail and distributed enterprises


Zebra Technologies is a global leader for in-store retail, hospitality, manufacturing, transportation and logistics access layer solutions. The Lincolnshire, Ill.-based company continues to innovate around its WiNG wireless architecture, NSight analytics platform, Azara multitenant cloud platform and MPact location services platform

Strengths. Zebra is one of the few vendors to provide application visibility and control at the edge of the network instead of in a separately located controller appliance, allowing the company to meet the growing needs of policy enforcement introduced by BYOD and the Internet of Things

Weaknesses. The company seems to lack the ability to manage its multiple location service offerings with a single application, with each offering having its own management application. Zebra’s wired switching portfolio only represents 15 percent of its overall revenue and impedes its ability to deliver an end-to-end access layer solution


Security specialist Fortinet, which provides a unified-access network capability leveraging its legacy wired switching solutions along with WLAN technology acquired from Meru Networks last year, has become aggressive in this segment this year. The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company’s Secure Access Architecture integrates Fortinet’s core firewall and other security capabilities into a unified-access network at a time when corporate security breaches and data theft have raised awareness of network-oriented threats

The vendor’s WLAN architecture – targeting higher education, healthcare and distributed enterprise customers -- integrates a WLAN controller into the FortiGate firewall appliance

Strengths. Fortinet doesn’t charge a licensing fee for its infrastructure wireless access points in contrast to its largest competitors -- Cisco’s Meraki, HPE-Aruba and Brocade-Ruckus. Its FortiPresence location service uses Wi-Fi signaling from a customer’s smartphone to track the device, simplifying the collection of location data for analytics.

Weaknesses: Fortinet’s unified network offering provides management of Fortinet-only switches, access points and security appliances -- narrowing its appeal to enterprises with multivendor infrastructure deployments. The company’s marketing focus on security could lack broad appeal to organizations that don’t already implement Fortinet security offerings

Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise

Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise provides a unified wired and wireless network portfolio with end-to-end access and control capabilities. The company focuses on the abilities of its Intelligent Fabric technology to reduce IT overhead costs with automation and centralized wired and wireless LAN deployment, management, policy and maintenance

Under the majority ownership of China Huaxin, ALE will launch its own line of entry-level APs as a lower-cost alternative to its Aruba-based APs in the SMB and emerging markets

Strengths. ALE recently unveiled a new consumption-based offer targeting midsize-enterprise deployments: Campus Network on Demand. The outsourced managed-access networking solution enables organizations to bill customers based on actual usage of wireless APs or wired ports – providing a differentiation in the market

Weaknesses. The company relies heavily on EMEA customers, owning 52 percent of the region’s share of total revenue in the space. ALE also remains heavily reliant on its long-term partnership agreement with Aruba Networks, now owned by HPE, for innovation in its WLAN hardware and software capabilities


Another newcomer in the leading companies list is Xirrus, which provides access solutions focused on wireless along with some switches. The Thousand Oaks, Calif.-based company sells exclusively through channel partners and offers a broad range of APs and network applications, which can be deployed with cloud-based or on-premise management options

Approximately 70 percent of its revenue comes from North America.

Strengths. Xirrus offers a broad range of APs, including unique outdoor and high-density options with multiple radios in a single AP, as well as network access applications that can be used to build effective wireless solutions. Its EasyPass solution also provides guest access and Wi-Fi device on-boarding options both for on-premise and cloud-managed

Weaknesses. Due to its strong focus on wireless access, Xirrus does not have a complete campus switch portfolio. The company also doesn’t provide a policy-based unified-access solution that covers both wired and wireless.

Juniper Networks

Juniper Networks provides access networking through its EX Series of wired switches, although it largely relies on partnerships for wireless through its Open Convergence Framework strategy. The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based vendor offers a deep and well thought out campus switching architecture

The company recently enhanced the security framework of the EX series by tighter integration with its SRX firewalls, as well as third-party network access control solutions -- including Aruba’s ClearPass

Strengths.  Juniper has a superior reputation for high-quality products and technical support among customers in its core verticals of financial services and the technology sector. The company also aggressively prices its campus switches while building more open-standards-based solutions

Weaknesses. Juniper’s dependence on wireless partners through its Open Convergence Framework is the opposite direction the market is heading as vendors bring WLAN assets in-house. The company lacks an indoor location and IoT containment and separation strategy


Avaya offers a wired and wireless LAN access layer portfolio featuring Unified Access -- its offering for management, policy enforcement, guest management and security across single or multivendor wired and wireless networks. Avaya relies on strategic partnerships for wireless hardware, which can be managed as a unified network with its own switching products

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company targets the education and health-care markets, for which Avaya has created specific offerings. Avaya ranks among the middle of the pack for vision on the Magic Quadrant and near the bottom for execution

Strengths. Unified Access supports granular segmentation of users, applications and services -- including in IoT devices that need secure access to applications in the data center. The company has also expanded its managed service portfolio to include professional services installation, deployment and management of the access layer network.

Weaknesses. Avaya has a limited indoor location services offering, which is needed to expand in its target markets. The vendor is also trailing its competitors in offering a cloud-managed WLAN solution

ABS India

Offers comprehensive range of solutions for large enterprises & SMB space with leading OEM technologies being integrated to suit enterprise requirements and environment


Dell provides an integrated access layer solution, One Network, with simplified management tailored to an organization’s size and complexity

For small businesses, Dell offers a unified wired, wireless and secure network through an integration with Dell SonicWall TZ series firewall and SonicPoints. In the midmarket, Dell offers a branded wired and wireless solution based on its N-Series fixed-port, stackable Ethernet switches and Aerohive APs -- both configurable and manageable using an integrated version of Aerohive’s HiveManager NG platform. For large campus deployments, Dell is featuring Aerohive as the WLAN component of an architecture using its C-Series and N-Series switches

Strengths. Dell’s ability to integrate HiveManager underscores the vendor’s progress and capabilities in serving SMBs and midsize enterprises for cost-competitive unified access networks

Weaknesses. Dell offers a version of HiveManager for network applications, although it does not support Dell’s W-Series or SonicPoint portfolio. This may limit the appeal of its unified networking solutions to customers who need to support legacy equipment from other vendors


D-Link provides wired and wireless offerings for the unified access layer, as well as other network and security devices – deriving more than 60 percent of its revenue from Asia-Pacific and emerging markets. The Taiwan-based company offers a broad hardware portfolio, with fixed configuration and stackable switches, and wireless APs that operate in stand-alone mode or with Wi-Fi controllers

D-Link provides its Central Wi-FiManager software at no cost to the overall solution

Strengths. D-Link is a low-price leader for both wired switch and wireless network hardware, with list prices for some of its unified access hardware that are lower than the discounted prices from other vendors for equipment with equivalent functionality

Weaknesses. The company’s Central WiFiManager software supports only the vendor’s APs and switching components and cannot be deployed in a cloud-based model. D-Link’s features for managing guest access and
on-boarding devices are limited compared to leading vendors

Allied Telesis

Allied Telesis has a wired switching and wireless LAN portfolio for access layer connectivity. The Tokyo-based company has three wireless architectures: its traditional wireless portfolio consisting of Unified Wireless Controller and TQ access points; AlliedView Cloud with APs; and the Extricom solution with separate APs, controller and switch solutions that integrate its Channel Blanket technology

The AlliedView Network Management System manages the switching and traditional WLAN product portfolio on-premises, while the AlliedView Cloud offering supports deployments without an on-premise controller appliance

Strengths. The company’s Management Framework can be deployed on-premise or as a private or public cloud and is open to third-party vendors to provide further infrastructure management and provisioning

Weaknesses. Allied increased its wireless portfolio with the acquisition of Extricom in 2015, but the two product lines have yet to be integrated. Although Allied supports three guest access solutions, each has limited policy enforcement capabilities


China-based ZTE owns a broad portfolio of networking and telecommunications products with 60 percent of revenue coming from Asia-Pacific. ZTE offers a full range of Ethernet switches, WLAN access points and controllers

Strengths. The company offers a cost-effective range of campus switches and wireless products that can fulfill basic access layer connectivity requirements. ZTE’s switches support WLAN APs and IoT devices such as conference room display, thermostats or LED lighting that may need higher power consumption

Weaknesses.  ZTE seeme to lack support for basic network applications – such as guest access, on-boarding and policy management -- which means customers need to rely on third-party apps to provide this functionality. In addition, ZTE doesn’t have an indoor location service solution, multivendor network management or virtual segmentation functionality for IoT

Source : Gartner, Sep 2016 




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