Xirrus Tells VARs: Focus BYOD, iPad Tablet on Wireless Experience
How can you profit from iPads, Google Android tablets and the BYOD (bring your own device) trend? Most VARs are talking about tablet security, corporate compliance issues and mobile device management. But new Xirrus CEO Shane Buckley is urging VARs to focus BYOD customer conversations on the end user experience and performance — particularly wireless performance. Here’s why.
Buckley and The VAR Guy grabbed lunch together yesterday in New York City. Buckley arrived armed with an iPhone and iPad, both of which already run Apple iOS 6 — the mobile operating system upgrade that will likely ship with iPhone 5’s in September. Buckley is a seasoned networking industry veteran; he previously led NETGEAR‘s commercial business to 50 percent revenue growth over two years, and he also had successful executive leadership roles at Rohati Systems (acquired by Cisco Systems in 2009) and Peribit Networks (acquired by Juniper in 2005).
Buckley joined Xirrus in June, and former CEO Dirk Gates shifted to the executive chairman seat. Now, the company has a very simple pitch: Xirrus wants to offer wired performance on wireless networks.
Sure, proper wireless security is part of that message. But Buckley wants VARs to lead with the wireless performance and end-user experience messages, because those are key areas where partners can differentiate, he asserts. The evidence he notes:
- BYOD is an unstoppable trend; even corporate executives are taking their iPads and smart phones to work.
- Wireless is an unstoppable trend, as those BYOD users demand wireless access.
- Yet most wireless networks offer lousy performance. So that’s where VARs can make their fastest business case for a sale.
Xirrus certainly has a strong market niche — catching on with colleges and health care providers in particular. But Buckley must constantly remind target customers and partners why they need best-of-breed wireless solutions (assuming Xirrus fits that definition…) rather than all-in-one, end-to-end networks from Cisco Systems, Juniper Networks and Hewlett-Packard, while also differentiating from wireless veteran Aruba Networks.
Let’s Do That Again, With No Wires
During lunch yesterday, Buckley mentioned boom times and big market transitions from yesteryear — such as the early 1990s Ethernet switching revolution, driven by Kalpana and other startups (Cisco acquired Kalpana in 1994).
Buckley believes the wireless industry — campus WiFi, corporate WiFi and mobile broadband, too — can undergo a similar revolution. In a follow-up email after lunch, Buckley wrote:
“BYOD is ALL about performance and most of the wireless vendors either don’t get it or can’t deliver it. The end user is demanding better performance to leverage the user experience they have already at home. Why is it the home experience is much better than in the office? Isn’t mobility supposed to be directly linked to productivity? Why is it the performance of your own WiFi network in the office is so poor? These are easy questions, but few vendors will try to answer them.”
Not By Coincidence…
Admittedly, Buckley’s points are self-serving. He wants Xirrus to be known as the most innovative wireless networking company in the world. The company’s solution “is simple,” he wrote in that email: “Put more radios in the air, switch the traffic between the radios — voila — welcome the wireless switch. It worked for Kalpana and 3Com in the 90’s, when we moved from hubs to switches — it’s the same for wireless.”
So where do channel partners fit into this conversation? Here again, Buckley has some strong opinions. Instead of painting with broad strokes, Buckley spent about 15 minutes of the one-hour lunch describing how service providers, VARs and market influencers are critical to Xirrus’s business strategy. “Xirrus is looking for like-minded, disruptive partners to take this message to market,” he wrote in a follow-up email. “We understand margin should follow value and have built this into our channel model.”
Innovating, Marketing, And Communicating
Buckley believes Xirrus already has the right technology and R&D team in place. But now, the company needs to more aggressively promote its products while communicating more closely with customers.
Since Xirrus named Buckley as CEO, the company has sent emails to all of its customers, introducing Buckley and including his personal contact information. About 10 percent of customers have replied back; many have requested follow-up conversations with Buckley and the Xirrus executive team. Xirrus is also putting non-customer-facing employees in front of customers more regularly, to help those employees understand real, unfiltered feedback from the Xirrus user base.
In some ways, Xirrus sounds like it is emulating Rackspace Hosting’s commitment to Fanatical Support — making sure all customers have direct lines of communication into key Xirrus employees — all the way to the C-suite.
The big challenge: Making sure Xirrus technology is miles ahead of giants like Cisco, and clearly communicating that advantage to partners and customers. The VAR Guy will be watching for Buckley’s next moves…