Sunday, December 3, 2017

What, no MFD this season? Where to get your Wireless info in 2018

Disclaimer / Please Note: I don't have anything to do with the organization behind Tech Field Day / Mobility Field Day, etc. I am merely an attendee and fan. I can't tell you if there will or will not be an event, that's not for me to decide. As an avid internetter I happened to notice there is no official date for MFD posted yet, and that's what spawned this. 

One of the coolest things about the Tech Field Day events is that anyone can sign-up for them. You go over to their site, take a look at what they are up to and fill out a form if you want to put your name in the hat to get selected as a delegate. Here, I'll make it easy, click here.

This coming year, there is something near and dear to me missing from the lineup: Mobility Field Day.

Now, this isn't the first group to dance with the idea of putting the kibosh on wireless, InteropITX struck it as a main track and rolled it into Infrastructure. But, it's frustrating to think that with the lack of support for Wireless Field Day / Mobility Field Day that there now isn't a place where open dialog can be had with a group of enthusiasts that are specific to something as important as wireless. Especially since almost every way we communicate in this day, age, and economy is via wireless. The back-and-forth discussion, the q and a, the ability to get specific questions delivered from the community to the people that can actually answer the question at the manufacturer level, all of that is so essential when helping choose vendors, at least from my perspective. The insight and interaction that MFD and all the Tech Field Day events are known for will be sorely missed in the wireless sector this coming year if an event doesn't surface.

As far as the ancillary Wi-Fi products that thrive because of the WLAN Industry (e.g. Cape Networks, NetScouts, Ekahau, etc) where are we supposed to hear from them now? I get it, smaller budgets, smaller companies, bigger net = bigger fish. But still, that intimate vendor relationship component gets lost when at larger events. I hope to see user group meetings, focused support for smaller, more intimate events, etc.
So it got me thinking, why aren't companies pushing their wireless tech out into the market the same way they were before?

Well, obvious things first: consolidation.

HPE acquired Aruba. Ruckus got picked up by Brocade Broadcom Arris. Xirrus got snapped up by Riverbed. Motorola went to Extreme. Meru to Fortinet. Even OpenMesh went to Datto. Not that all of these guys were TFD/WFD/MFD presenters, but there is an obvious shift in power in the Wi-Fi industry. Smaller Wi-Fi companies are getting acquired by larger groups who see it as more of a feature to their company than a standout or breakthrough technology. All the shine and luster of what were once the "wicked" and groundbreaking technologies are now broken-in and assimilated with much larger organizations. The companies went from trying to prove what made them individually spectacular to being part of a much larger solution.

Secondly, now that these technologies are part of the mothership, their conglomerate marketing machines are going to want you to focus on the pure play, the turnkey solutions, the one-stop shops etc. I don't expect to hear much about Wi-Fi until 802.11ax comes around and everyone has to whip out there wares to show what makes 'em special, but they won't be doing it at individual events; Cisco Live style events will be the launch point. I hate to say it and I hope it never happens, but Atmosphere rolling in to a few days before or after HPE Discover isn't a far stretch of the imagination. I would also bet that Extreme is working on one helluva partner summit. And the rest of em? Xirrus? Will we ever hear from them again?

So where does that leave the rest of the wireless industry?

Well now that CTIA has been gobbled up by Mobile World Congress America, it seems like a great fit for 5G for now. IWCE still seems to be the conference for the nerds of the point to point microwave and LMR groups.

But what about the wireless engineers and solution builders of the world?

Hopefully we'll see a Mobility Field Day pop-up at a later day or at the very least glimpses of Wi-Fi and wireless offerings making their way into the Network Field Day and Tech Field Day events to start. But, without companies supporting specific efforts like Mobility Field Day, independent events like InteropITX, or anything outside of their monolithic meetups like Cisco Live (and don't get me wrong, CLUS and Atmosphere are freaking awesome, they're just not tailored to the Wi-Fi audience) where is one to go to find out the specifics of working with WLANs? For now, it seems like it will be up to the users, partners, and distributors of the technology to be the goto source for information.

There has never been a better time for the Wireless LAN Pros Conference
Keith & company assemble one of the best annual resources for knowledge sharing, professional development, networking and building friendships in this market. Hands down, second to none.

There has never been a deeper need for events like Wi-Fi Trek
For those that follow the certification courses of the CWNA or have an interest in a deeper understanding of how all of this stuff really, really, deeply, works.

For people looking for more information on point to point and multipoint microwave, you have independant multi-vendor supported events like WISPAPALOOZA and maybe even a slim chance Animal Farm might come back someday!

Incredible distributors and resellers put on annual events like:
Wireless Without Limits from Double Radius
Tessco One from Tessco
The UNWIRED Event from Winncom
and more!

Even though it seems to be heading towards Wi-Fi companies turning into Wi-Fi business units, there is still a ton of progress to be made in the wireless space. After all, when's the last time you plugged a cable into your device?

Hopefully when the vendors start to innovate with 802.11ax and future wireless technology, we will get to hear about it and it will be catered specifically to the group of people that are passionate about it instead of it being stuffed in the corner of a larger annual meeting.

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