Gartner Wired/Wireless LAN Critical Capabilities 2015



Key Findings

  • Changes in potential vendor ownership affect strategic partnerships and will differentiate how several vendors in this research are able to approach the unified access or wireless-only use cases.
  • Slightly more than half of organizations use a single vendor for unified wired/wireless local-area network solutions; however, 75% are interested in soliciting proposals from multiple vendors.
  • Vendors now offer 802.11ac Wave 1 wireless access points; in many cases, they're priced at parity with previous-generation 802.11n hardware.
  • As more organizations address guest access or employee bring-your-own-device initiatives, the ability to effectively and securely onboard large numbers of devices to the enterprise network is becoming a greater priority.


  • Select a LAN vendor based on your organization's network performance and management requirements. Consider use cases and stated performance and management requirements, as opposed to choosing based on a specific network architecture, a vendor's market leadership or incumbency.
  • Create price leverage and identify the LAN solution that is best aligned to your organization's specific requirements by seeking competitive bids.
  • Choose a single-vendor unified wired/wireless LAN access solution for a consistent wired/WLAN user-centric access policy, with improved provisioning times and reduced administrative costs.
  • Differentiate vendor offers by evaluating simplicity and consistency of management, network applications, wired form factors and cost.

What You Need to Know

This document was revised on 16 September 2015. For more information, see the Corrections page.

Three general groups of vendors are covered in this research:

  • Vendors that provide their own wired and wireless infrastructure, network applications and services — e.g., Cisco, HP Networking/Aruba, Extreme Networks and Huawei
  • Vendors that focus on more-specific connectivity options and/or address specific sets of market requirements — e.g., Aerohive, Brocade Communications Systems, Ruckus Wireless and Zebra Technologies
  • Vendors that use strategic partners to provide portions of the access solutions — e.g., Dell, Avaya, Juniper Networks and Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise (ALE)

Vendors in this research meet the basic functional requirements across the defined use cases. Customer feedback to Gartner also indicates that most organizations are pleased with their wired and wireless local-area network (WLAN) access vendors.1 As in 2014, high scores were clustered in some use cases; we see wider vendor product differentiation in such areas as:

  • Full-featured cloud management platforms that provide comparable functionality to the vendor's on-premises management solutions, rather than a more limited set of capabilities.
  • Form factors and port densities that meet specific wired switching requirements. These include fixed form factors, port extensions and chassis-based switches.
  • Innovation around network applications that support onboarding, security, guest access, policy enforcement, network management and other access-layer functionality.
  • Consistency of management capabilities across the entire wired and wireless access network and across multiple vendor products, enabling simple "single pane of glass" management for an IT administrator responsible for supporting one or multiple enterprise locations.

Only about half of end-user clients deploy wired/WLAN solutions from a single vendor, even though 75% see using a single vendor as desirable.2 Reasons include cost, existing relationships/infrastructure, mismatched refresh cycles or a preference for best-of-breed approaches.

Gartner believes that organizations generally benefit from a long-term strategy to use a unified wired/WLAN access layer. This results in:

  • Improved provisioning, orchestration and management
  • Reduced operating expenditures (opex)
  • Improved onboarding
  • Faster provisioning
  • Consistent policy enforcement


Critical Capabilities Use-Case Graphics

Figure 1. Vendors' Product Scores for the Enterprise Unified Wired and WLAN Access Use Case
Figure 2. Vendors' Product Scores for the Enterprise Wired-Only Connectivity Use Case
Figure 3. Vendors' Product Scores for the Enterprise Wireless-Only Connectivity Use Case
Figure 4. Vendors' Product Scores for the SMB and/or Mall or Remote Branch Office Use Case
Figure 5. Vendors' Product Scores for the Voice Over WLAN Use Case
Figure 6. Vendors' Product Scores for the IaaS or Managed Service Use Case


Aerohive Networks

Aerohive Networks strategically focuses on its strong wireless portfolio of access points and access applications, scoring among the top three vendors for WLAN-heavy use cases, such as enterprise wireless-only connectivity, voice over WLAN, and managed or cloud-based services. Aerohive provides a controllerless architecture, which is available as on-premises/private cloud or as-a-service/public cloud-managed, which Gartner clients often cite for installation ease and competitive cost. Aerohive's management component (HiveManager) manages only Aerohive equipment.


Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise (ALE), scored at or above the midrange of vendors for each use case, on the strength of its end-to-end LAN capabilities, which provide unified network access and control for its own Ethernet switches and for wireless hardware from its OEM partner, Aruba. The vendor also uses Aruba's ClearPass access management technology, for which Gartner clients consistently give positive feedback, supporting its own and third-party wired and wireless LAN equipment. ALE is 85% held by state-owned China Huaxin. Customers should determine whether ALE's specific plans for organic and inorganic growth under its new ownership align with their own long-term networking requirements.

Allied Telesis

Allied Telesis's capability for meeting basic connectivity requirements with its predominant wired switching portfolio place it in the lower third of vendors for the enterprise wired-only connectivity use case. The company is working to integrate the WLAN capabilities it acquired through its 2014 purchase of Extricom. The vendor provides limited guest access functionality and onboarding or policy enforcement applications for wired or wireless components. These limitations — plus a lack of capabilities for expanded requirements, such as indoor location or analytic reporting — place Allied Telesis in the low 25% quartile of vendor scores for wireless-related use cases.


Avaya's comprehensive wired and wireless LAN portfolio, which tightly integrates the vendor's wired switches and management and control solutions with wireless hardware and technology from its strategic OEM partner, enable the vendor to score in the top quartile for five of six use cases. Avaya scored as the No. 3 vendor for the small or midsize business (SMB) and/or mall or remote branch office use case, on the strength of its Unified Access solution, which enables management, policy enforcement, guest management and security across multivendor networks, and is supported by the vendor's fabric architecture to provide automated network and device provisioning at remote and branch offices. Avaya's managed service portfolio includes turnkey installation, deployment and management of a WLAN; however, the service is not yet available to customers for the wired access network.

Brocade Communications Systems

Brocade Communications Systems' score in the top quartile for enterprise wired-only connectivity reflects its strong portfolio of wired switches delivered under the vendor's HyperEdge architecture. Brocade does not offer its own WLAN components, but relies on several strategic partners for wireless product development, including Aruba (which is now owned by HP Enterprise), Aerohive and Ruckus. Brocade provides several new aggregation and edge switches, has incorporated software-defined networking (SDN) functionality into its switching portfolio, and has integrated its switches with its partners' management and policy software. However, other WLAN applications remain limited, pushing Brocade's scores to the bottom of use cases with heavy weighting for wireless and for those capabilities.


Cisco scores as a top two vendor in all use cases, based on its broad set of access layer capabilities across switching, wireless, policy and network management. Scoring in some use cases is affected by the limited ability of Cisco customers to migrate from one wired or wireless architecture to another. For example, Gartner clients provide positive feedback for the Cisco Meraki cloud-managed solution's cost and ease of use; however, unlike competitors' solutions, Meraki WLAN access points cannot be migrated to on-premises WLAN deployments. Gartner clients also have reported inconsistencies among Cisco's management tools, including inconsistent user interfaces and different functionality for security, guest, network management and policy enforcement.


Dell can provide a unified network solution based on the integration of its wired switching hardware — which ranked in the top 10 by global sales in 2014 — with wireless technology from OEM partners Aruba and Aerohive. The vendor scores in the midrange of all use cases, with its reliance on partners for wireless technology innovation. This may be an important factor for customers that find it advantageous to meet their WLAN requirements directly through Aruba or Aerohive, rather than Dell. An emerging market for Dell's unified network solution is SMBs — the vendor has introduced purpose-built solutions for that market, which may be secondary to larger vendors.


D-Link has a broad portfolio of wired and wireless access network hardware, scoring in the bottom third of all use cases due to limitations to the current capabilities of its network applications. For example, D-Link provides a software controller architecture, Central WiFiManager, which can remotely manage 500 D-Link wireless access points. Central WiFiManager covers only the vendor's hardware. Furthermore, as of 1H15, the vendor's SaaS-based CloudCommand management solution (which is provided by partner PowerCloud Systems) still did not cover wired switches or D-Link's growing array of 802.11ac access points. D-Link is a leading provider in the niche of stand-alone, software-managed access points, which is targeted at uses such as medical device carts, where the access point can aggregate signals from multiple pieces of equipment for transmission to the network.

Extreme Networks

Extreme Networks' ability to provide a broad portfolio of wired and wireless products suitable for a wide range of needs, including those of SMBs, enterprises and service provider customers, places the company in the top third of vendor scores for all use cases. Extreme scored highly in the SMB and/or mall or remote branch office use case, partly due to its continued investment in products that reduce costs in smaller environments. This includes heterogeneous stacking for switching, as well as semiautonomous access points that operate in controller and controllerless modes. Similarly, the vendor benefited in the voice over WLAN use case from its ability to report mean opinion scores (MOSs) for voice applications. This makes Extreme one of the few vendors able to fully optimize the access layer for any enterprise considering an "all wireless office" decision.

HP Enterprise (Aruba Networks)

With the acquisition of Aruba, HP attained No. 1 or No. 2 scores in each of the Critical Capabilities use cases, based on the strong access network solution combining HP's wired switching line with Aruba's WLAN and mobility products. HP will combine its FlexCampus switching portfolio with Aruba's WLAN solutions to offer these products' access capability. Network services and management applications will be delivered via the phased integration of ClearPass, Airwave and Intelligent Management Center (IMC) functionality, which garner positive feedback from Gartner clients. Customers should continue to seek a committed product and service roadmap from HP that identifies products the vendor may phase out as it fully integrates with Aruba.

Huawei Technologies

Huawei Technologies' Enterprise Business Group (EBG) scored at or near the midrange for all use cases, based on the capabilities of its Agile Network Solutions, which support the vendor's vision of an end-to-end campus networking portfolio. Huawei also continues to extend its functionality and capabilities to meet new and expanding enterprise requirements. This includes its eSight management and network applications, which support non-Huawei devices, including HP and Cisco, to simplify orchestration within multivendor environments. Huawei's lowest score was for voice over WLAN, where clients need to work with the vendor to understand what tools are available beyond normal quality of service (QoS) statistics to ensure performance.

Juniper Networks

Juniper Networks scored in the top three vendors for wired-only connectivity, based on its EX line of fixed form factor and modular switches, as well as its ability to provide automation and stacking capabilities that simplify wired switching management. However, the vendor scored in the lowest quartile of use cases with any wireless capability weighting, because it has discontinued the development of its WLAN platform beyond 802.11n and will rely on a partner framework, which includes HP/Aruba and Ruckus, for future wireless development. Customer feedback indicates that the level of integration between Juniper and its Open Convergence Framework partners may affect a customer's ability to achieve a unified access layer with a single policy, security and management interface.

Ruckus Wireless

Ruckus Wireless scored in the top half of vendors for wireless-only and voice over WLAN use cases, based on its strong portfolio of access points and its controller-based architecture, which can be deployed virtually with the full suite of Smart Applications. These applications now include location-aware capabilities, including Smart Positioning Technology (SPoT) and SmartCell Insight analytics. Both can be delivered on-premises or as cloud-managed services. As a WLAN-focused vendor, in 1H15, Ruckus Wireless announced a relationship with switching vendor Juniper that gives it the ability to offer a complete LAN solution. Further product integration between Ruckus' wireless and Juniper's wired access layer solutions is on a timeline that had not been committed by early 2H15. As a result, Ruckus scored as one of the bottom two vendors for the unified access and wired-only use cases. Scores also were affected by the fact that the vendor's management component (FlexMaster) handles only Ruckus equipment, unlike many of its top competitors.

Zebra Technologies

Zebra Technologies scored in the midrange of most use cases. This is based on the strengths of the wireless access networking technology it has integrated from former Motorola solutions, combined with the limited wired switching product lineup, which completes its LAN solution. Network application capabilities helping to support Zebra's scores include its MPact location services platform, which supports Wi-Fi and Bluetooth low-energy beacons, and its WiNG Express platform. The latter platform is designed for the SMB market and enables one wireless access point to serve as virtual controller for as many as 25 other access points, thereby reducing costs for small deployments, compared with controller-based WLAN architectures. Zebra also provides its AirDefense Services Platform, supporting management of access layer hardware from non-Zebra vendors, such as Cisco and Juniper.

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