HP enters the cloud-managed WiFi fray

HP enters the cloud WiFi marketHP has jumped into the cloud-managed WiFi offering, announcing at Interop in Las Vegas that it will bring its own Cloud Managed Network products by the middle of the year.

Cloud managed WiFi has been championed by companies like Meraki, which was purchased by Cisco in late 2012, and promises easier and more central management of a wireless network via a cloud-based interface, making it attractive to small businesses and branch offices of enterprises.

Dominic Wilde, vice president of global product line management for HP Networking, said HP will differentiate from its software managed WiFi rivals in a number of ways. He said HP’s cloud structure will be “truly global” in nature, as opposed to country-by-country support, and will be run on an HP cloud service built specifically for the new application. He said the company is also designing the WiFi solution to continue working as a local network even if the Internet connection is disrupted, meaning though the network will be managed from the cloud, it will retain some functionality even when it can’t reach the cloud.

“It has to be independent from the cloud connection. That’s something clients are definitely looking for,” Wilde said.

HP will also continue to bet on OpenFlow, the popular open source Software Defined Networking (SDN) specification, adding the cloud managed offerings to the variety of products that will support the standard. That will help to ensure “consistency of architecture across the network,” according to Kash Shaikh, director of product, channel, and technical marketing for HP Networking.

Shaikh stressed that 100 per cent of the company’s wireless LAN business is done through its channel partners, and he said the cloud managed offering would be no different. But the simplicity of architecture and management, as well as lower TCO with a “pay as you use it” cloud model will open the doors to new customers for the channel, and new types of partners for HP.

“It’s much more of a low-touch solution, and it helps us scale within SMB. Partners will be able to sell with minimum support for us,” Shaikh said. “Our core strength is in SMB, we’re number two there, and this is a natural fit for our SMB business.”

Cloud managed networks are often cited as a logical offering for managed service providers, who are used to the idea of remote monitoring and management, and for whom selling on a recurring revenue model is usually second nature. Cisco’s Meraki unit has been publicly courting MSPs as the next channel expansion for its wares, and it seems likely that HP will also seek out managed service providers with its offering. The cloud managed network offering will likely fit into HP’s toolbag for MSPs, which includes several members of its software family and its managed print programs and products.

HP’s Cloud-Managed Network offerings are slated to debut in June. Pricing has yet to be announced. Shaikh stated that its first products will be targeted at the SMB market, but that HP is also looking upmarket over time.

“We’ll be starting the lineup in SMB, and then move into the midsize enterprise and beyond,” he said.