AI-Powered Wi-Fi as a Service Part of a $59.8 billion market by 2025

The market intelligence firm Tractica forecasts that the revenue generated from the direct and indirect application of AI software will grow from $1.4 billion in 2016 to $59.8 billion by 2025. Key industries for AI adoption will include automotive, business services, investment, media and entertainment, and legal.

“Artificial intelligence has applications and use cases in almost every industry vertical, and is considered the next big technological shift, similar to past shifts like the industrial revolution, the computer age, and the smartphone revolution,” says research director Aditya Kaul.

Wi-Fi as Network as a Service (NaaS) is starting to establish beachhead in companies with 500 or fewer employees, and could grow to become a multi-billion dollar market in the coming years. It starts with Wi-Fi, then on-demand and employee-based monthly software services will follow (firewall, compliance, UC, presence and more). Why you may ask? Recent research by iGR found that 64% of enterprises are more than willing to outsource Wi-Fi because they want to focus on the core business. The reason is very simple! There’s a scarcity of IT expertise to manage networks in one or more locations.

As Harrison Lewis, CIO with Northgate Markets puts it, “Wi-Fi service enables us to focus on our core competency which is to manage stores and distribute food and goods. With this service, we can easily monitor our many stores, distribution center and our corporate office, as one global network from anywhere, and respond when KodaCloud alerts us to any issues which require human intervention.”

Wi-Fi as a Service, powered by Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, enables MSP and Enterprise IT departments to provide highly optimized Wi-Fi service to end users in numerous locations, with little or no on-site IT resources required. KodaCloud and other emerging Wi-Fi companies understand that the subscription economy will take over the enterprise in the move from 80% Capex to 80% Opex.

Wi-Fi as a Service is changing how Wi-Fi networks are deployed and managed. The service includes a network of indoor and outdoor Wi-Fi Access Points (AP) that are shipped directly to customer location(s), eliminating the need for a customer to buy equipment, or a partner to manage inventory or shipments. The entire network can be installed in minutes — all managed for a low monthly fee. With proactive network monitoring, Wi-Fi as a Service identifies and corrects tens of thousands of daily connectivity or performance issues, and can make 80 percent corrections and issue network alerts to IT teams where human intervention is needed.

“With our many distributed office locations, we needed a Wi-Fi network that could run and fix itself, as well as scale with our growing needs. Wi-Fi as-a-service has re-defined how we deploy and manage our Wi-Fi networks – allowing us to focus more on scaling our business.” Michael Ramsey, vice president of information technology with EmployBridge

Though small and medium enterprise customers are the first to benefit from Wi-Fi as a Service powered by AI – larger enterprises and service providers are now taking notice. If scale is not an issue with cloud and AI, then why not embrace a more flexible and Opex-friendly model?

But, the vendors in the $12 Billion Wi-Fi equipment market will not stand by idly and let the as-a-service companies erode away high-profit margin equipment sales. Incumbent vendors will continue to make announcements about “Cloud Wi-Fi”, enticing customers to buy and manage Wi-Fi the old fashioned way.

AI has influenced cloud access and network services forever, automating what large IT teams, massive infrastructure products and software normally handle. As a result, more and more investments are flowing into Machine Learning and AI startups.

As the saying goes, “the train has left the station” for AI-powered Wi-Fi.  Get on, or get left behind. Some large vendors are starting to embrace the new model and 2017-2018 will see a changing landscape between old and new service vendors.

Proactive AI Rolls Back the Truck Rolls

Talk to a Mid-Market CIO today, and they’ll tell you what they dread most about on premise networking – the infamous truck roll. Indeed. This is not a routine IT activity to be undertaken lightly. Far cry from Python scripts that run routine batch processes, and written from the comfort of your couch. A truck roll involves hard costs, skills, tools and most importantly, speed. There is no sophisticated business in the world, that doesn’t put aside a substantial sum towards an unplanned truck roll. That’s simply the hidden cost of On-Premise HW equipment that legacy vendors won’t tell you about. Sure, they’ll happily sell you a maintenance contract that’s 30-50% of the HW cost itself – but hey, who’s counting right?

Well, savvy CIOs are counting. And they are looking at it from every angle. In a world, where Cloud Services for virtually every technology sprout like mushrooms, setting aside budget to pay for onsite HW replacement and truck roll is not a profitable strategy. What’s more, the decision that leads to an onsite replacement is often hastily arrived at, based on incomplete and sometimes, inaccurate issue diagnosis. Take a branch Wi-Fi network for example. Many Access Point vendors simply advise their partners and customers to return an Access Point or eat the cost of truck rolls, often for minor issues. One wonders why. It’s economics, after all. Let’s assume a distributed 10-site company with 40 APs (4 APs per site):

  • Retail price paid per AP: $500-700
  • Average cost of labor: $150/hour (See here)
  • Average truck roll time: 8 hours
  • Total customer cost: $150 x 8 x10 = $12,000 (may not include price of AP)

It doesn’t take a math genius to figure out that customers could end up paying twice as much for the HW, not including the diagnosis time involved prior to the truck roll and replacement. Sure, things fail. That’s life. But what if technology could preempt or predict that failure – such that diagnosis and replacement did not have to occur in a rush, or cost customers a fortune? Artificial Intelligence (AI) is that technology, and it’s here. AI based preemptive maintenance is about reducing total operational cost of your IT solution. By letting AI monitor and identify patterns of erroneous behaviors in the background, a more actionable (and contextual) insight can be gained, and action taken accordingly. Moreover, with Machine Learning, it has become a lot easier for IT to apply corrections that have worked at one branch to another branch, that have similar networking behaviors. With the diagnosis work done preemptively, anyone (yes, anyone) in a branch office should be able to successfully install APs and restore the Wi-Fi network.

  • Average cost of labor: $150 (per hour/per site)
  • Average truck roll time: $0
  • Total customer cost: $150 x 10 = $1500 (includes the APs!)

An 80% cost savings! No need to engage in discovery and troubleshooting onsite, no burdening your customer, or end user for logs and other data. No truck rolls. A totally hands-off troubleshooting experience. What a relief!

With AI on our side, it’s time to rethink the role of truck rolls in guaranteeing business continuity. And free up the IT budget for more meaningful activities like growing the business. So, are you focused on making AI part of your IT strategy?

Nilesh Savkoor
Director of Product Marketing

 

"Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" meets HAL 9000?

“Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” a song written by Lennon–McCartney (Beatles’ 1967 album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”) and HAL 9000 Artificial Intelligence?  What do they have in common? Not much you may say. Well, let’s consider the context of fiction.

The Beatles song was based on “Alice in Wonderland”, a fictional novel and a fairytale, written in 1865 by English mathematician Charles Lutwidge Dodgson under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll. Alice in Wonderland tells the story of what happens when you fall through a rabbit hole into a fantasy world populated by peculiar creatures.  Artificial Intelligence was very much fiction up until a few years ago, and often tied to HAL 9000 from the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968), thus fiction or fairytale.  Well, fast forward almost 50 years. Alice in Wonderland is still fiction, but AI (HAL) has very much become a reality within networks.

Recent technology advances have made it more important for networks to handle a massive uptake in interference, traffic, capacity and connections. This is especially true for Wi-Fi networks. Qualcomm recently announced the new 802.11ax Wi-Fi SoC portfolio (IPQ8074) for network infrastructure devices (sampling mid 2017). The new 802.11ax portfolio promises to deliver 4x more capacity, and 4x faster connections.

As we consider the continued and massive need for bandwidth and spectrum, 4x more capacity, and 4x faster connections sounds great. Well, it is.  You need this to handle increased usage of HD video streaming, video-conferences usage, content sharing, social media and file transfers, etc. But, 4x more of everything also means more work and headaches for IT people. Why, you may ask?

The next protocol is 802.11ax with support for 12-streams (eight 5GHz and four 2.4GHz), 8x8 MU-MIMO, 80 MHz channels and other features to maximize capacity and coverage.  The protocol aims to improve traffic scheduling with a managed approach of resource allocations. In addition, 802.11ax will include optimization of wake-up time which can possibly reduce Wi-Fi power consumption by 2/3rd to extend device battery life.

AX promises device data rates of 1.8 Gbps peak speeds through Dual Band Simultaneous (DBS) combining 2.4 and 5 GHz bands, and higher order modulation (1024 QAM) and access point data rates up to 4.8Gbps.

Ax in the Sky with AI
As Wi-Fi and small cell licensed and neutral host networks become more crowded, dense and diverse — a myriad of devices with differing protocols (802.11 a,b,g, n, ac… and soon ax) with data rates ranging from 2Mb to 1.8Gb, and spectrum bandwidth ranging from 1x1 40 MHz to soon, 12x12 configuration with eight 80 MHz streams, we’ll need AI more than ever before. After all, old and new devices must be able to connect and work. The world would be silly simple if there was just one protocol. But, that’s not the case, and we need cloud and AI functions to help make it all work, even with available Wi-Fi and small cell SON features.

AI Powered Networks Becoming a Reality
AI can improve overall network experience when we consider that 75% of network issues (source: Gartner) are identified by the end users. How? AI can proactively manage and fix network issues. AI enables big network thinkers to rethink what is today, and improve resources and people more effectively to compete and deliver better products and services on a global scale. In the coming 5 years, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has the potential to completely change the way we run, deploy, manage and utilize networks, and ramp up new global services.

KodaCloud’s system is AI powered and automates time-consuming troubleshooting and optimization tasks. AI makes decisions regarding which parameters to tune based on patterns fed by the learning module. The system also creates client behavior profiles, and uses fingerprinting to tailor device-to-AP interactions. AI learns network behaviors and patterns by gathering data from KodaCloud’s global network.

In summary:

  • Rule-based algorithm in the cloud
  • AI model that updates the parameters of the rule-based algorithm
  • RRM enforcement, measurement and data collection modules on the AP (enforcing and collecting data)
  • Automation of all functions without any knobs to control, or conflicting manual parameters to tune

All networks are managed by one global expert system for proactive network monitoring and troubleshooting using patented Artificial Intelligence (AI) — which automatically corrects 80-90% of network and connectivity issues. The system collects detailed information from each Access Point, and networks and presents the information to the AI system that reacts at machine speed, capacity and cost. With the forthcoming 802.11ax protocol and neutral host small cells, AI is increasingly important for enterprise, hospitality and service provider networks to manage the massive increase in performance, traffic, capacity and interference.

All companies, large or small, would benefit from including AI in network and services strategies. AI can be the foundation for growth and productivity for years to come.   “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” is still a great Beatles song. But, the AI-powered network is no longer a fairytale.

Ronny Haraldsvik
SVP/CMO
Twitter @haraldsvik

 

The “Clock Signal” Heard Around the World

Cisco’s response to the clock signal failure should send a ‘signal’ (no pun intended) to all customers. The time has come for the old and expensive way of doing business (vendor lock in with HW + maintenance support) to go away. Despite the massive recall of Cisco’s (and now, Juniper’s) routers, switches and firewall appliances that suffer from the dreadful clock signal failure bug, Cisco’s technologies are proven to work. But, their model is hardware based, and its systems lock in customers for years. A smart strategy if you are Cisco shareholders, but is that what customers want?

To be fair, Cisco has offered to replace the HW for free, but with a catch. The free HW only applies to customers with a SMARTnet contract (or if within the Warranty period). If you purchased your HW 3 years ago, or don’t have a current SMARTnet contract, you’re out of luck. Partners once again have to walk on egg shells and justify unplanned costs to their customers. A clear example of the anxiety caused by the separation of CAPEX & OPEX, to everyone.

Here’s why their “proactive replacement” response falls short of a true service:

  1. It comes with conditions. Asking customers (without an active SMARTnet contract) to “buy” new HW (especially, that which run into thousands of dollars) out of the blue and without any budget whatsoever, is a shocker. What is a bank with 100’s of branches across the country supposed to do? Try convincing a CIO these days to pull a few thousand dollars out of their hat for HW or support contracts. Good luck with that.
  2. It comes with additional cost for customers. Expecting customers to buy SMARTnet contracts (priced per HW to be precise) and insure themselves against an impending failure in future, itself is a sign that legacy vendors have no real skin in the game. In modern IT deployments, customers prefer to insure their data – not HW. Data is the new gold in IT; service is the enabler.
  3. It passes the “buck” to partners. Passing the cost of onsite replacement to partners exposes the true reality of IT today. HW has commoditized so much, that it likely costs Cisco next to nothing to replace it free of charge. While the complexity involved in planning an upgrade, executing changes without disruption, hardening configurations and optimizing/restoring performance to original levels is no small task and continues to command a premium. Partners that undertake this proactive replacement activity will see a hit to their margins, especially on mid-to-large and more complex deployments. The SMARTnet fee (10-20% of HW) will barely cover the cost of engineer truck rolls, config changes, migration windows for optimization, etc. We have seen that movie before.

There is hope on the horizon for partners and customers. While legacy vendors have proven yet again that the value in networking has shifted from HW to Service (knowledge and labor), innovators are pushing the boundaries even further by offering turnkey Network-as-a-Service (NaaS). A partner or customer is no longer required to buy any HW, SW or Maintenance contract. For a single monthly or annual fee, they get everything: 24/7 monitoring, best-in-class performance, proactive troubleshooting and optimization, software upgrades and free term based refreshes. No unforeseen costs, ever. Moreover, harnessing advances in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in the service model allows vendors to pass on operational cost savings to partners and customers. KodaCloud’s AI driven Wi-Fi as a Service for example is offered as a 100% Opex solution. No inventory to buy, no SW licenses or support contracts. Proactive monitoring and remediation helps partners preempt critical failures, helping them earn their customers trust. Offering Wi-Fi as a Service helps customers do more with less, and lets them stay on top of business and technology needs. Most of all, Network-as-a-Service (NaaS) puts the ownership of the network back to where it belongs – the vendor. And the customer benefits are fairly transparent – business continuity and investment protection. Not another clever vendor lock-in scheme, disguised as proactive support.

Sincerely, KodaCloud

Cloud Managed Wi-Fi which Lacks Intelligence.. is "No Bueno!"

We appreciate Ruckus highlighting their concerns in the latest “Seven Myths of Cloud-Managed Wi-Fi” white paper. The point of view lacks Intelligence — AI that is. Ruckus is a great company, with great products and technologies, so we were puzzled by the “retrospective” on Cloud Managed Wi-Fi as the paper describes concerns with yesterday’s Cloud Managed Wi-Fi systems. In one way they are correct. Cloud Managed Wi-Fi without AI does not work that well… without an AI-Driven Cloud Controller.

Let’s address the “Seven Myths…” one by one.

1. “Cloud Managed Wi-Fi Just Works”

– Claim: Cloud Managed Wi-Fi makes performance worse (compared to AP bought and managed), and does not make problems go away because of low cost and “sub-optimal technology” and “lowest common-denominator” antenna design. Therefore, makes the claim that smart channel selection, roaming and QoS is only possible with Ruckus’s cloud solution – which provides a REACTIVE response to issues (i.e…. call them if your network goes down).

– Myth? NO

– Why? Today’s next gen, Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered-Wi-Fi, handles management and control centrally, with one global view of all Access Points. The system improves the network performance as compared to manual IT management or yesterday’s cloud management solutions. KodaCloud’s system for example, PROACTIVELY detects and fixes 80-90% of network performance and connectivity problems. This is AI at work, resulting in a major cost saving and productivity improvement impact for any enterprise who cannot afford a team of people to manage an on-site controller.

2. “Cloud Managed Wi-Fi is Simple”

– Claim: In this claim, the author states that by moving the controller from on premise to the cloud does not make things simpler, then claims that “RF management is tricky”, and that the AP cannot tell you if it’s “too close” to another AP. This section further highlights concerns with guest management, channel selection, airtime fairness, band steering and simplified deployment. Simplified deployment, and an “intent-driven interface as the solution with a mobile app.

– Myth? No. In fact, the author almost makes the claim that Cloud is indeed simpler.

– Why? AI-powered network? Check! Simple to install? Check! Mobile App? Check! Guest management and 100 SSID? Check! 5-10 minute or less to install and manage? Check!… We can go on and on. Managed Wi-Fi can be simple. It’s even simpler when you have an AI-engine that proactively runs the network, improves user experience by 15-35dB, and per user Mb/download by 25-50Mb per device/person on average. As one industry-recognized Wi-Fi analyst puts it, KodaCloud is redefining the organizational network. What we’re seeing here isn’t just the future of Wi-Fi in enterprise, government and beyond, but in fact the redefinition of organizational IT itself away from ever-more boxes, and towards easily scalable and very cost-effective services. How?.. you may ask:

  • KodaCloud classifies the problems into separate groups: Connectivity, performance, security
  • KodaCloud’s expert system is working in real-time to identify known patterns
  • Learns from previous corrections to constantly update the problem/correction knowledge
  • Constantly analyzes the problems, fixes and measures the improvements
  • Results: Improve dB, SNR, roaming time, packet loss, connection time, etc.

3. “Cloud Managed Wi-Fi Means Cloud Scale”

– Claim: Cloud concerns with backend limits, hard limit on number of sites the cloud can support, maximum of 30 clients per AP, etc. The response is that with a Ruckus AP + Cloud can help facilitate with carrier proven architecture, etc.

– Myth? No, it’s not a myth.

– Why? Do you have concerns with FedEx capability to deliver packages to many locations? Do you have concerns with Amazon’s ability to cloud manage any and all transactions? Nor do we. KodaCloud’s service for instance, includes a network of indoor and outdoor Wi-Fi access points (APs) that are shipped directly to customer location(s), and entire networks can be installed in minutes. KodaCloud delivers and manages the networks for less than the cost of most vendors’ maintenance contracts, eliminating the need for a customer to buy equipment, or a partner to manage inventory or shipments. KodaCloud proactively manages and troubleshoots mixed and regionally distributed deployments of indoor and outdoor Wi-Fi networks, controlled by one global expert system that’s powered by AI.

4. “Cloud Managed Wi-Fi Means Inexpensive”

-Claim: AP is typically 80% of capital cost for Wi-Fi. The author then seeds doubt with… “you get what you pay for.”

– Myth? No, managed Wi-Fi as a Service can cost as little as $15 per AP/month… with NO additional cost (no software or cloud license).

– Why? With a PROACTIVE system, where Wi-Fi is a service, you do not need to pay for the AP, software license, cloud access, specialized RF staff, etc. With one low monthly fee, you get your “IT in the Cloud”. Sounds great? It is. Just ask the 100+ customers that have signed up for KodaCloud’s service. KodaCloud is the first company to offer a subscription-based service for indoor + outdoor Wi-Fi networks that is powered by one global expert system which proactively manages and troubleshoots distributed Wi-Fi networks for its partners and customers.

5. “Go Cloud and it’s Cloud Forever”

– Claim? When you go cloud, it’s a one way trip. And, to be safe, lock in with Ruckus… that way you too can switch from cloud to an on-premise and expensive cloud controller… if you so decide.

– Myth? No, not really. With a cloud managed Wi-Fi system, powered by AI… you are not locked in. IT will love it, and so will the CFO.

– Why? Affordable and predictable service cost. And, if for any reason you want to take over install, management and ongoing support (besides a portal or APP view), then it’s all yours again. You did not buy any equipment, so there’s no rip and replace.

6. “Cloud Managed Wi-Fi Means Less Secure”

– Claim: Cloud gives you less control. You need certificate-based authentication. And, the author states…“there’s some truth to Cloud Managed Wi-Fi means less secure”.

– Myth? We are almost in agreement here. It’s a myth. Cloud Managed Wi-Fi does NOT mean “less secure”.

– Why? We use Amazon cloud. It’s as secure as any cloud can be. The Access Points do not allow any kind of external access. They connect to the cloud and only our Network Operations Center (NOC) experts can access them (via the cloud). All data, usernames, passwords, authentication credentials, etc. remain within the customers’ local network. SSID’s can be secured with WPA2 pre-shared key and 802.1x authentication. We also support RADIUS proxy and Management VLAN’s for additional security. We offer guest and hidden SSIDs for guest access security.

7. “All Access Points are Created Equal”

– Claim: Cloud managed vendors offer “Cheap” Access Points. Ruckus makes the assertion that all customers need the same long list of features.

– Myth? No, not really.

– Why? In most cases, the majority of the AP hardware comes from the same set of contract manufacturers, who supply the same SoC to 80% of the big-name vendor AP brands. The next gen model is “commodity hardware” where software clients and AI makes the difference. We embrace this model. It allows for improved service at a lower cost for customers. With a common software client on the AP, all APs may indeed appear equal in performance and management. KodaCloud does this today! With AI-based support and optimization, along with 24/7 monitoring by a team of experts, KodaCloud’s analytics engine regularly informs all systems on how to continually optimize the Wireless LAN environment. KodaCloud’s AI then diagnoses and classifies issues, which the expert system self-corrects based on an extensive set of rules. The AI system then optimizes all Wi-Fi networks and ALL Access Points to the environment, even as the environment changes on a continuous basis. So, in our system, all APs are equally great!

The old way…

  • Autonomous APs: Cisco, Proxim
  • Managed WLAN (Controllers): Cisco, Aruba, Ruckus, etc.
  • Managed WLAN (Controller-less): Aerohive, Aruba, Ruckus, etc.
  • Cloud Managed WLAN: Meraki, Aerohive, Aruba, Ruckus, etc.

The new way…

  • NextGen Cloud is AI or Intelligent WLAN: KodaCloud

KodaCloud’s system leverages AI + Machine Learning to automate time-consuming troubleshooting and optimization tasks. The “Expert System” makes decisions regarding which parameters to tune based on patterns fed by the learning module. The system also creates client behavior profiles and uses fingerprinting to tailor device-to-AP interactions. The Machine Learning engine is the brain of the AI system. It learns network behaviors and patterns by gathering data from KodaCloud’s global network. In summary:

  1. Rule-based algorithm in the cloud
  2. Machine-learning model that updates the parameters of the rule-based algorithm
  3. RRM enforcement, measurement and data collection modules on the AP (enforcing and collecting data)
  4. Automation of all functions without any knobs to control or conflicting manual parameters to tune

All networks are managed by one global expert system for proactive network monitoring and troubleshooting using patented Artificial Intelligence (AI) — which automatically corrects 80-90% of network and connectivity issues. The system collects detailed information from each Access Point, and networks and presents the information to the AI system that reacts at machine speed, capacity and cost.

As of February 2017 (in just a few months), KodaCloud has deployed over 1,000 Wi-Fi access points in 200+ locations. In January alone, KodaCloud’s proactive network monitoring identified over 20,000+ daily connectivity or performance issues with over 150,000 device connections. KodaCloud’s system made 80-90% corrections, and issued network alerts to IT teams where human intervention was needed. The system improves average signal connectivity strength by 29dB and improves employee data rate connectivity by an average of 50 Mbps for each correction made. See an example of customer data/benefits.

KodaCloud is comprised of long-time wireless experts from Aruba, BelAir Networks, Bridgewater, Ericsson and SpiderCloud. The team knows how to deploy and manage highly scalable systems and hundreds of thousands of Access Points. KodaCloud’s service includes a network of indoor and outdoor Wi-Fi Access Points that are shipped directly to customer location(s), eliminating the need for a customer to buy equipment, or a partner to manage inventory or shipments. The entire network can be installed in minutes, and KodaCloud manages the network for a low-monthly fee. With its patented approach, KodaCloud can also enforce QoS for applications such as voice over Wi-Fi with AP-to-AP handoff. KodaCloud has 16 patents (AI, machine learning, cloud control).

We applaud Ruckus for raising concerns with Cloud Managed Wi-Fi, but with AI-powered Wi-Fi, Cloud managed Wi-Fi works. Tomorrow is here, today, with AI-powered networks.

Sincerely,
KodaCloud

Kodacloud.com Twitter: @kodaCloud

Guest Blog: Don’t Fix It Until It Breaks? Wrong!

Author: Craig Mathias, Principal, Farpoint Group

There’s an old saying that I’m sure you’ve heard – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And this maxim has defined much of human behavior regarding improvements (and sometimes, sadly, even routine and required maintenance!) to functioning products and systems for much of the industrial age. The information age, however, saw a modification to this saying into the much more important and relevant rule we should all live by today: fix it, or it will break! Good enough is never good enough, and any mission-critical element of operational IT deserves, and, yes, demands, regular re-evaluation and re-consideration, even if it’s currently doing the job it is intended for.

And the reason for this is that IT solutions tend to have complex and often obscure failure modes, usually, it seems, going south at the worst possible time. And, when that happens, it’s often extremely difficult to determine just what went wrong and how to best remedy the situation, all the while with productivity going straight down the tubes with critical information systems offline.

Sure – outright, total failures are rare, and such are usually the result of power failures. I’ve seen more than a few cases where the wrong Ethernet cable was unplugged, just for example. Clearly unintentional misconfigurations, upgrades gone wrong, and operational and administrative errors come next, and the possibility of failures in security leading to intentional damage requires constant vigilance

More likely, though, are errors that creep in over time. Available capacity gets consumed (end-user demand only grows, after all), but even more importantly many tasks which could be used to monitor for and proactively address potential reliability issues are historically labor-intensive. This means that support, troubleshooting and changes to operational procedures to minimize costs often have big costs of their own, and consequently don’t always get done. This is why a wholesale replacement of network infrastructure, most notably Wi-Fi, is desirable for so many shops – newer products can do a much better job of minimizing operational overhead and expense. While updates, upgrades, bug fixes, and related should absolutely be performed regularly and as required, the best way to fix it before it breaks is increasingly to take advantage of new technologies and capabilities embodied in newer products.

And this doesn’t mean just gaining access to the latest IEEE 802.11 standards and Wi-Fi Alliance specifications. Leading vendors are today doing a lot more than ever before to justify new investments in capital spending by demonstrating a reduction in operational expense, with a corresponding improvement in reliability – a major win-win if there ever was one.

Just for example, consider the use of artificial intelligence (AI) techniques in minimizing operational expense. Intelligent automation can spot and remedy problems before they become productivity-sapping issues or even outright outages, automatically adjusting operational parameters like channel assignments and signal strength system-wide with no operator intervention. Humans simply cannot do this anymore – the systems we depend upon are too large for any human to manage the numerous low-level details involved. This is just like the case with modern aircraft, where pilots specify what to do and dozens of processors and lots of software decide how, optimizing the operator’s intent and specified policies in real time.

Similarly, Cloud-based solutions push essential complexity into services addressing large numbers of otherwise unrelated end-user organizations. Centralized analytics can spot issues and often-subtle negative trends before end-users – and even operations staff – can, with fixes applied again before any productivity is lost. The Cloud additionally enables essentially transparent scalability, and all of this at the lowest cost possible.

Interestingly, this future is here today. AI Wi-Fi is already available – take a look at what KodaCloud is offering, again just for example. We can indeed have solutions that are self-configuring, self-optimizing, and self-repairing, resulting in solutions that essentially never break, in the traditional sense, in the first place. Fix it before it breaks, then? No problem!

Guest Blog: The Small Business IT Conundrum

Author: Craig Mathias, Principal, Farpoint Group

As someone who has been working in IT for over 40 years, mobile and wireless for more than 25, and who has run a small business for that same more than 25 years, I can tell you: small businesses need exactly the same IT capabilities and facilities as larger firms. Any differences in implementation are limited to matters of scale, not essential capabilities like PCs, mobile devices, servers of various forms, Cloud services, security, remote access, and, well – everything. There’s no room for any compromise in functionality. But there is one big difference: budgets. And this one has historically been a doozy.

Many network and IT suppliers, on both the products and services sides, focus of necessity on the needs of larger organizations, and this emphasis has largely defined the core capabilities of IT and networking over the years. But given that small businesses have the same needs and that core suppliers have largely ignored this end of the market, smaller organizations have been faced with a huge conundrum, one that is just beginning to be addressed today.

Specifically: as a small business owner or operating manager (and let’s assume there is no IT department involved, as is commonly the case), should I buy “big system” solutions and just live with the complexity and high costs, or residential-class products, and live with the lack of management and limited functionality? Or do I have a better choice?

Well, yes – now you do. As I alluded above, there is a new choice that we believe is so perfect for smaller organizations that we plan on migrating to it ourselves: buying Wi-Fi solutions from a managed services provider (MSP) that can also provision services like firewall, compliance management, and unified communications. In other words – buy solutions, not boxes.

Think about this: buying big-system implementations that have all the functionality required involves significant capital expense (CapEx), including depreciation. And then there’s the operating expense involved, in the form of the expertise required to plan, install, manage, troubleshoot, remediate, and, inevitably, upgrade whatever is selected. And let’s toss the idea of residential-class products out without a further consideration beyond the fact that enterprise-grade security capabilities are simply not there.

So, the takeaway? Forget the capital expense altogether. MSP-delivered, Cloud-based solutions turn all costs into operating expense (OpEx) – and often with a bottom line that’s less than the price of the maintenance and support contract for that big-system equipment. Think Wi-Fi – and, ultimately, all of IT, as a service, and voilà – the conundrum vanishes. Costs are minimized, and all functionality, capacity, coverage, and more is, well, just there.

Really – does it get any better than that? No, I’m happy to conclude – it does not.

2017 – the Year 5G brings together IT?

Mobile, Cloud, IT Services, Security, IOT + M&A

Every year it is customary for industry analysts, pundits and long-time “veterans” to give their points of view (POV) and insights to what 2017 will bring us, both good and bad. As you read these insights, keep in mind that we all write these insights with a biased POV. Why “biased”, you may ask?

Well, it’s human nature to be influenced by previous experiences, the company you work for, and in some cases, the clients you have. Therefore, as you read these predictions, keep in mind, if you could predict the future correctly, would you be working? Or, would you be playing Powerball lotto and sharing your wealth with friends and people in need? You know the answer. These predictions are “best guesses” based on what we know, and individual bias based on positive and negative experiences, as well as our industry vantage point (macro or micro view).

So, as I have done over the years (with a pretty good scorecard), I too will share my biased convictions on what the future will bring us in 2017 (this is my personal view, and not the views or opinions of my employer or companies I advise).

Drumroll please… Here it goes. Top 10 industry predictions for 2017 for Mobile, Cloud, IT Services, Security, IOT + M&A

  1. Mobile: 3 leading mobile operators embrace distributed micro-services access and soft core networks, replicating (copying) Google and Amazon’s distributed architecture to deliver flexible and on-demand services. Presence and analytics dominate investment areas.
  1. Mobile: Enterprise companies embrace neutral host spectrum small cell systems and small cells and Wi-Fi as-a-service – dramatically off-setting planned Capex for mobile operators when it comes to addressing enterprises’ inside and on-campus mobility needs. This will start with USA (2017) and then Europe and AsiaPac will follow (2018-2020).
  1. Cloud: Datacenter and Fiber network investments go up (not down). Wall Street rewards investments and M&A into Gigabit Ethernet fiber networks and datacenter infrastructure. Whoever controls the metro ring and datacenters, controls the data flow.
  1. Cloud: Hardware companies without a clearly communicated and solid to-the-cloud strategy (with or without M&A) will see a 20% decline in sales (>30% decline in company value, if public).
  1. Machine Learning & AI start to dominate cloud access and services – automating what’s normally handled by large IT teams, massive infrastructure products and software. PE and Venture Capital continue to flow into Machine Learning & AI startups.
  1. IT services: The subscription economy takes over the enterprise, small and large. As-a-service (Opex) grows to overtake Capex (buy/own/manage) within the majority of enterprises (10-1000 employees) with large enterprises to follow by 2019-2020 (1000 > 10,000 employees). The move from 80% Capex to 80% Opex becomes a reality by 2020.
  1. IT Services: Network as a Service (NaaS) will establish beachhead in companies with 500 or fewer employees, and grow to be a $100B market by 2020. This starts with Wi-Fi, and then on-demand and employee-based monthly software services will follow (firewall, compliance, UC, presence and more).
  1. Security: More data breaches and hacks will occur in major datacenters (across verticals), and within utilities. Major government agencies step in to provide support to ensure protection of privacy and intellectual property – with support from Google, Facebook, Amazon and major players. Do not mistake this for government oversight or access to privacy data. Government agencies across various countries step in to provide physical and cyber protection – in the fight against cyber terrorism, financial thefts of $ trillions, and breach of personal data.
  1. Security: More startups and smaller public companies will be acquired by public companies, mobile operators and service providers as well as government agencies – rewarding public and private investors and VCs.
  1. IOT: Cisco, Google and Apple align to support a common framework for access, connectivity and cloud – for IOT enterprise and consumer products and services.

Did you notice that I did not mention 5G as a breakout topic? Based on my biased POV, I do not believe 5G is “something” but rather that 5G is “anything” that brings 2G, 3G and 4G mobile network access, wired networks, IP services and IOT together — in a common framework with QoS. Yes, that’s my personal view and description. I have no problem with companies claiming to have 5G products or services… but in doing so, they set themselves up for scrutiny: 5G How? And, do all products or services comply with an accepted 5G framework or standard?

2017 will be an exciting year, and may become known as the year 5G brings IT together (Information Technologies).

Ronny Haraldsvik
SVP/CMO
Twitter @haraldsvik

Note: This prediction blog is my personal view and not the views or opinions of my employer or companies I advise.

Guest Blog: “Less is More” with IT in the Cloud

Author: Craig Mathias, Principal, Farpoint Group

“KodaCloud is re-defining the organizational network. What we’re seeing here isn’t just the future of Wi-Fi in enterprise, government and beyond, but in fact the re-definition of organizational IT itself away from ever-more boxes and towards easily-scalable and very cost-effective services.”

For the past couple of years, we’ve been asking a single, simple question of some our clients and even a few other networking and IT analysts: what does the network of the next five to ten years look like? Like many other long-term participants in the most important end of IT, we’ve grown up with massive network infrastructures, dozens of different classes of boxes for core and edge networking, security, performance optimization, and, of course, the rapid and downright exciting evolution of Wi-Fi itself.

The answer here, I believe, isn’t really all that surprising: less is more. And by that I mean that the emphasis in networking and IT strategy overall has shifted to simplicity – fewer boxes, flatter networks, simpler infrastructures, and, at least for small-to mid-sized organizations (so far, anyway), an emerging shift to networking (and even parts of the rest of IT) as a service (WaaS, NaaS, ITaaS, etc.). The rise of highly-capable, multi-client-centric managed services providers (MSPs) along with products directed squarely at these suppliers is making it easy for even small firms to have access to big-organization networking.

And that’s an important development, because those big-organization networks depend on a few very important characteristics, as follows:

  • Capacity – The ability to handle all types of user traffic and a broad range of approved BYOD devices and other clients (like the emerging Internet of Things), and to easily and transparently scale as traffic demands increase over time – as they always do.
  • Security – The requirements for information and network security are irrespective of the size of a given organization. IT infrastructure is either secure, or it isn’t – and isn’t, isn’t an option.
  • Ease of Use – Networking has historically been a challenging field of endeavor, at least in part due to the constant evolution of both wired and wireless capabilities, but the convergence we’ve seen in recent years to Wi-Fi access points (APs), Ethernet switches providing power to and interconnecting those APs, and a connection to the Internet form the basis of any network today. Installing, configuring, growing, and otherwise managing this conceptually-simple infrastructure shouldn’t require a degree in computer science – or a full-time staff of on-site professionals.

Especially for small-to mid-sized organizations today, then, those MSPs we noted above are already installing and supporting solutions that meet all of these requirements, and at a cost far below that of the historical strategy of purchasing ever-more equipment that is often obsolete even before it’s fully-depreciated.

And the keys to success for those MSPs lie in Cloud-based solutions designed for multi-client operations, the application of sophisticated artificial-intelligence (AI) techniques for management and analytics, and products designed for ease of use by mere mortals. This new direction is perhaps the most interesting and important for IT overall, because, guess what? Ultimately, even larger organizations are going to adopt this strategy when they discover its inherent flexibility and cost advantages.

Less is absolutely more with IT as a service in the Cloud.

Rain or Shine - Our Outdoor AP’s have your back

Today, KodaCloud introduced an exciting new addition to our award winning Wi-Fi as a Cloud Service offering, to address the needs of the hospitality, industrial, retail and warehousing markets. We are proudly announcing availability of 802.11ac Outdoor Access Points (OAP) for our North American customers, and are thrilled to bring this innovation to market through our MSP partners. Our OAP will be available as a monthly subscription service, much like our indoor AP’s. Again, no CAPEX or inventory to worry about, and in true service fashion, we’ll continue to offer no-cost SW and HW upgrades as necessary. Let’s just say, we’re throwing the legacy CAPEX Wi-Fi model “out-the-door”. Details of the announcement can be found here.

outdoor-ap-masterthumbWhy Outdoor AP’s? Over the past few months, we spoke with dozens of customers and partners who continue to express a very high level of dissatisfaction with legacy Wi-Fi vendor options. As vendors choose to focus on coverage and compromise on capacity (or vice-versa), they often forget that end users mostly care about the “Quality of Experience”. This means the network as a whole must adapt to the user context whenever and wherever they may be. It’s never a point in time fine-tuning exercise. Identifying and diagnosing problematic coverage areas, device originated issues, user initiated errors or impact changing environmental conditions still takes an army of experts and best practice guides. Unfortunately, legacy vendors leave the burden of Wi-Fi optimization and troubleshooting (not to mention, the obscene costs) to IT, or the end user. This makes managing the Wi-Fi network a guessing game at best. Hotels suffer from poor guest reviews and companies lose track of inventory, miss shipping deadlines or suffer declining productivity, due to unrelenting device connectivity issues.

With KodaCloud, IT is able to manage an indoor and outdoor environment from one unified AI powered Expert System, delivering a seamless connectivity and roaming experience between these environments. As such, users never have to switch SSIDs, restart apps (anyone recall those days?) or re-authenticate themselves to what essentially is the same Wi-Fi network. Furthermore, it allows IT to harness real-time network health data and deliver a platform for personalized services, wherever the end user may be. Now warehouses don’t have an excuse for unaccounted inventory or late deliveries. Hotels can wow their guests with personalized services that take the experience to a whole new level.

Some examples where our Outdoor Wi-Fi AP’s delivered as a Cloud Service are a great fit:

  1. Hospitality: Hotels, Managed Properties, Malls, Golf Clubs, Casinos, etc. are increasingly relying on secure and reliable Wi-Fi access to attract and retain clients. Being able to offer a seamless, personalized service when in a lobby, relaxing by the pool, in outdoor conference areas or simply taking a stroll through the facilities is key to improving guest satisfaction and consequently, revenue. It also improves operational efficiency, that translates into better services for guests.
  2. Warehouses: In the digital economy, companies are finding themselves relying more on inventory management, shipping or other supply chain apps that are designed for mobile workers. Short of paying a fortune for cellular LTE service on smartphones, such mobility demands an extremely reliable Wi-Fi network where employees with iPads or PoS devices can roam from aisle to aisle without worrying about sloppy RF signals or dropped connections.
  3. Education: Schools, colleges and universities are rapidly expanding their digital footprint. This means staff needs to communicate across campus using VoIP apps, 24/7 video surveillance and physical security apparatuses must actually work around the clock. Critical student notifications and alerts shouldn’t ever be compromised, and learning content should be accessible anywhere on campus. All of this demands a network that is aware of areas of high and low density, peak and off-peak usage, coverage patterns and “hotspots”. Managing such complexity, while attempting to guarantee a superb QoE is virtually impossible without an AI based Expert System that unifies the indoor and outdoor experience.

KodaCloud is reinventing the enterprise of the future with its AI powered Cloud Service Wi-Fi. A system that focuses on the only thing that matters to customers and partners – an exceptional end user experience – at a fraction of the cost of legacy Wi-Fi solutions. For free trials or a demo, click here. Or attend one of our monthly MSP webinars on how IT-as-a-Service is transforming the network into a revenue and unmatched productivity driving asset.

 

Giving IT the Ultimate Holiday Gift

The holidays are upon us. I have no doubt many of us in IT, will seek the next big thing in mobile and wirelessly connected devices. We’ll spiritedly line up at shopping outlets or scramble to lock in online deals. Armed with clever apps, we’ll plan elaborate holiday lunches with family and friends. We’ll gather around our smart devices and watch ball games in high definition, or wirelessly share vacation clips on social networks.

Yes, we’ll connect to the world like never before. Simply using mobile devices and a Wi-Fi network that’s presumably, always-on. And while as users we’ll “check out” of the workplace, that’s precisely when the Proactive Artificial Intelligent network will “check in”. No IT professional should have to sacrifice their holiday to ensure the network is always-on. Yet, sadly many do. So, this year consider a network that watches over you. The IT hero, and gives you a “no worries” holiday experience. A system that eliminates un-actionable alerts and wasted efforts in solving routine network problems, or the hassles of managing remote sites, devices and apps. And most importantly, one that helps you put that dream project into action.

Imagine a network built on 3 solid principles:

  1. Observe and act. Any ordinary network can set off alarms (often false), ruining the holiday season, but a 24x7 monitored, proactive network acts to fix issues well before they manifest themselves as user complaints.
  2. Own the outcome. No more “it’s not my problem” redirects from vendors back to IT. A Proactive network detects anomalies that could likely affect user performance or IT productivity, owns the problem and resolves it. A true Outcome-as-a-Service.
  3. Liberate, not aggravate. A network backed by an Artificial Intelligence system, that is constantly learning to improve end user performance; leaving IT free to focus on launching strategic projects in 2017, versus reacting to panic stricken users.

By 2020, self-driving vehicles will go mainstream and take the stress out of your daily commute. KodaCloud is preparing the autonomous network of the future to take the stress out of Wi-Fi networking and operations. An amazing quality of experience for your users, making 2017 the year that Enterprise Wi-Fi was truly reinvented.

Happy holidays, and wishing you a year filled with hope and peace of mind for IT! From your friends at KodaCloud.

Bernard Herscovici
CEO & Founder

 

When Hotels or Restaurants Add a Star, Sales Increase up to 26%

74% of hotel guests state that Wi-Fi has a great impact on a hotel’s star rating.

There are over 20,000 small and medium independent hotels in the USA, so a 26% increase in demand for hotel rooms can have a positive economic impact nationwide, according to a recent Boston University study. And, there are over 600,000 restaurants who can benefit from a 1-star rating increase on Yelp, and a subsequent bump in sales by up to 5% – according to a Harvard Study.

A recent study by Boston University and Microsoft disclosed some important findings, and the value of online reviews.

As reported in Wall Street Journal on Saturday, November 19, “researchers used 10 years of financial data for hotels in five states, along with historical records of online reviews from three popular ratings platforms.” They reviewed 3.7 million online reviews from TripAdvisor and Expedia.

screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-9-23-42-am

The finding concluded that:

  • “better reviews are correlated with higher demand and, in turn, higher prices”
  • “1-point increase in a hotel’s rating is associated with a 6.5% increase in demand and a 1.5% increase in price”
  • “1-star increase is associated with a 26% increase in demand”
  • “ratings are more influential for independent hotels because consumers do not have strong priors on their quality.”

Restaurants benefit from a 1-star rating increase with a 5% increase in sales. “Harvard Business School. Dr. Luca has studied the effects of Yelp reviews on restaurants and found an impact, particularly for independent restaurants, whose sales rose by 5% when average ratings increased by one star.”

Further research from TripAdvisor, Hotels.com and hotelwi show that:

  • Poor Wi-Fi leads to negative online reviews & loss of repeat business
  • 71% of hotel guests say having Wi-Fi in their room influences where they stay
  • 50% percent of respondents said free Wi-Fi is a must- have when traveling for business
  • 94% of guests cite Wi-Fi as the most important amenity (38% of these see Wi-Fi as a deal breaker and will book elsewhere)

Make Wi-Fi work for you without the headache and the hassle. KodaCloud’s Managed Services Partners can help boost hotel and restaurant star ratings.

  • No need to buy Wi-Fi equipment (for partners or the customer)
  • Free cloud-based software updates and hardware refresh
  • 24/7 proactive network management system which actively troubleshoots and solves Wi-Fi network issues with patented machine learning and AI

With KodaCloud, there is no upfront cost for equipment, software licensing or network management fees. There’s just one simple monthly payment that provides a reliable Wi-Fi network as a service.

Boost sales with reliable Wi-Fi.  You’ll be thankful (later).

Happy Thanksgiving!

Ronny Haraldsvik
SVP/CMO, KodaCloud
@haraldsvik

Sources:
https://research.chicagobooth.edu/~/media/EEE11C9E05BF4E31BD03CA4923BC2598.pdf
http://www.wsj.com/articles/for-hotels-online-reviews-really-matter-to-the-bottom-line-1479477602
https://www.hotelwi.com/news/JuneSurvey.htm
hotels.com
TripAdvisor
http://betanews.com/2014/07/07/poor-wi- -risks-losing-hotels-repeat-business/

Why MSPs will displace the Wireless LAN reseller

Times are changing for resellers. Up until now, businesses purchased Enterprise grade Wireless LAN systems from their local reseller. The reseller (a.k.a VAR) would have been well trained on the complexities of the technology by a vendor. Resellers would help customers with their Wireless LAN purchase, setup and installation. The reseller would also be a conduit to the equipment vendor. For a fee, they would occasionally pick up complex technology support cases and work with the vendor to resolve them. As compensation for the sales and support of the vendor hardware equipment, they earned a modest profit margin.

Reseller model is on the decline

However, competition has increased and hardware prices continue to decline. Vendors have started competing aggressively for customers. Often at the expense of the resellers profit margin. Yet, the work expected of the reseller in terms of demand generation, sales and support has continued to increase. This has forced some resellers to rethink their strategy. Others have exited the business in search of newer profitable businesses. Amidst channel consolidation, vendors are slow to help resellers shift to recurring revenue models.

MSP is the new Reseller
There are a few important trends that will continue to impact the current channel eco-system.

  1. Customers are rapidly moving business critical applications to the cloud. Network infrastructure is not far behind. Cloud networking has shown to dramatically simplify management of Wireless LANs. New software is delivering powerful analytics and orchestration capabilities to further simply network operations. This will accelerate the move to Networking-as-a-Service.
  2. The emergence of a very large number of Managed Service Providers. Small and large MSPs have allowed buyers to pick and choose from a broad set of services across multiple technologies. Be it desktops, unified communications, mobile devices, business applications or the network itself. This drives down the need for silo’d technology resellers.
  3. Customers are looking for broad expertise across technologies. They are not seeking deep support and optimization expertise in one technology area from their partners. They expect to pay for these services as a simple, monthly subscription fee. Customers favor this model as there is a single throat to choke for support and optimization. The partner is expected to play the role of a “One-Stop Solution Provider”. Thereby eliminating any requirement for customers to go between multiple technology resellers.
  4. Everything is moving to an “as-a-service” model. This provides many financial benefits to the customer. It is not simply the option of having a graduated payment plan versus paying for solutions with upfront capital. It is also the promise and expectation of a greatly simplified approach to technology installation, use and operation. All at a much lower total cost of ownership.

MSPs will win in the cloud
These trends stand to benefit MSPs, as they now become the orchestrators of many different cloud based “aaS” applications and networking solutions. The benefits are obvious:

  1. Increased opportunities to build recurring revenue businesses and more customers served
  2. Management of “evergreen” networks, where traditional refresh cycles are replaced by continuous “service” upgrades that include hardware
  3. Ease of deployment, machine based proactive support, continuous monitoring and rapid customer on-boarding
  4. Solution cross-selling without the friction of deployment and optimization
  5. Increased profitability and customer satisfaction

At KodaCloud, we have found MSPs to be natural partners. We have complementary business models and share a common vision of delivering the best user experience at a reasonable (recurring) cost. We continue to work hard to build the best service possible, and are more energized than ever about helping resellers evolve into MSPs. And in doing so, we hope to pave a renewed path to profitability for them.

Bernard Herscovici
CEO & Founder

Can we live without Wi-Fi?

Recently I came across this caricature of Maslow’s hierarchy on LinkedIn. After a good laugh, I started thinking about how common and ubiquitous Wi-Fi has come to be. It seriously does feel like an essential aspect of our daily lives. Without which we lose our ability to execute some of our most basic human tasks.

Taking Wi-Fi for granted

At home my kids expect and demand a system that just works, one that is capable of multiple concurrent Netflix, Skype, Snapchat or Whatsapp sessions. We spend countless hours sharing, posting, learning or following rich content in what I call “socialsphere”. Each of us now connect with our friends and families. Often simultaneously, and in multiple ways. And with concurrent video sessions! The slightest glitch irks everyone. It does not matter if the cable network providing internet to our homes is congested. Or that the innumerable wireless capable devices cause vague issues. It is almost always Wi-Fi’s problem. And with my career background in Wireless, at my home it is always my fault!

When we took our winter vacation someplace warm our resort had paid internet access. Yet they only allowed one session at a time. Strange, I thought. No matter the gourmet delights or the warm sandy beaches. The quality of Wi-Fi access across the resort was a topic of daily discussion. To maximize incidental expense revenue, the resort probably wanted its guests to buy multiple subscriptions per family. Perhaps even by individual! I found that strange as each AP could easily support close to 100 users and unlimited sessions. Or perhaps their ISP throttled their bandwidth because they had chosen a tiered usage plan. Or maybe they were altruistic and simply wanted their guests lying by the pool, ordering food and drinks, versus spending a well deserved vacation on the internet. Either way the Wi-Fi experience was agonizing to say the least. I’m not sure we’ll be visiting that resort again anytime soon. Amazing how a once “nice-to-have” amenity suddenly turned into the primary deciding factor for our next vacation.

Back at work and being a WLAN company we practiced eating our own dog food. We didn’t want to pay to have Ethernet cables to our desktops. We went all-in wireless. In the beginning it wasn’t a breeze. Especially with our printers. Eventually things worked out. We emerged with many interesting product ideas. These led us to reimagine the WLAN experience for our customers.

Thinking beyond radio speeds

The reality is that we have become a Wi-Fi addicted society. Very few technologies have been more widely adopted or become stickier than Wi-Fi. To the industry’s credit the smart people bringing us WLAN products have done a tremendous job innovating fast. Be it chips, radios or antennas. Every few years we need to upgrade our network to benefit from many new experience enhancing capabilities. Contrast that with the pace of innovation in more traditional areas such as cellular. WLAN engineers and designers have moved at breakneck speed. They have brought us incredible performance improvements.

Not all is rosy though in Wi-Fi land. The speed of innovation has brought challenges – whether it’s the customization needed by businesses small and large, or keeping up with ever changing Wi-Fi standards. Not to mention the vast interoperability challenges between devices and networks. It is always the end users who endure poor Wi-Fi experience. The vision of an end to end Wi-Fi system, that works all the time and everywhere is still emerging. An experience that resembles water and electricity. One that the next generation of mankind will come to treat as a “bare necessity”.

To enable the next wave of growth in Enterprise, Wi-Fi needs to be an “always-on” service. It must deliver consistent and high performance connectivity. Everywhere, and to any device in the Enterprise. And that is at the core of our mission here at KodaCloud.

Wi-Fi has proven to be amazingly addictive, now let’s make it super reliable!

Bernard Herscovici
CEO & Founder

7 million businesses in USA want Wi-Fi as a subscription service

This recent research from iGR should not be a big surprise to IT insiders who have predicted this move from buy/own/manage network services to “as a service” for both software and networks (NaaS). As one analyst told me when we discussed the findings, “this is the future of IT.”

As Iain Gillott, president and founder of iGR, put it: “There’s a growing interest from enterprises in Network as a Service in order to reduce capital expenditures and take advantage of IT outsourcing.”

> 64% of SMBs are more than willing to outsource Wi-Fi because they want to focus on the core business. Why? Very simply, there’s a scarcity of IT expertise to manage network in one or more locations. In addition to the cost of Wi-Fi equipment ($200-1000 per AP), the cost associated with managing Wi-Fi Access Points was estimated to be between $27-30 per AP/per month.

KodaCloud makes it easy for a customer to sign up for Wi-Fi as a service when the subscription cost is $25-30 per/AP. No worries about upfront equipment and installation costs, software licenses, ongoing maintenance or $150-225 yearly cloud network monitoring fees.

One flat rate of $100 for a network of 4 Access Points addresses the needs of over 6+ Million small businesses. $300-400 for a network of 12-16 Access Points addresses the needs of several hundred thousand of medium sized businesses.

As one MSP told me when we first met a few weeks ago… “So let me get this straight, we find the customer and you ship the equipment to our customers, and we don’t have to carry inventory?”…to which I replied “yes!”. He went on, “And, we make 50-80% margin, and the customer and us as the partner receive proactive networking monitoring, troubleshooting and alerts?” Again, my answers was “yes”. His reply was simple, “this is a no-brainer”. Maybe needless to say, but his company became our 112th MSP partner.

By offering Wi-Fi as a Service, MSPs can tap into a multi-billion dollar services opportunity for years to come with recurring revenue streams. It’s a “no brainer” 🙂

KodaCloud is a proud member of the MSPAlliance. Most recently, we received the coveted “Best Cloud Solution” award for our innovative AI-powered cloud Wi-Fi service for MSPs. Find out more about the SMB research and more.

Register for the iGR SMB Research findings webinar on Nov. 11 at 9am Pacific/12pm Eastern, hosted by myself and Iain Gilliot of iGR, and moderated by Charles Weaver from the MSP Alliance.

Let’s make the future of IT together.

Cheers,
Ronny Haraldsvik
SVP/CMO, KodaCloud
@haraldsvik

2020: A Wi-Fi Service Odyssey

(and the emergence of Networks as a Service)

…despite your enormous intellect, are you ever frustrated by your dependence on people to carry out your actions? Not in the slightest bit. I enjoy working with people

If you remember this quote, then you’re old like me (but wise). If you do not, then you must watch (or re-watch) 2001: A Space Odyssey – one of the first great Sci-Fi movies. Since then, the HAL 9000 computer has become synonymous with Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Last week, KodaCloud was the first company to announce an AI-powered Wi-Fi as a Cloud Service with a low monthly subscription. This is a big change, and the start of what’s to come – Network as a Service (our very own Odyssey). The AI system captures key performance indicators and tweaks configurations according to hundreds of pre-set rules. With the proactive, machine-learning artificial intelligence, you can set the parameters to look for issues with devices, connectivity and propagation. All the things that it would take a dedicated IT person to handle to keep the system running, we do with pre-defined policy settings. Based on what AI finds, the system sets new settings and applies new policies based on learning, and shares the local information with the global network. Local learning benefits the global network.

What’s new and unique is that the service, sold via Managed Services Partners and also direct to enterprise customers, is that it’s the first of its kind:

  • No need to buy Wi-Fi equipment (for partners or the customer)
  • Free cloud-based software updates and hardware refresh
  • 24/7 proactive network management system which actively troubleshoots and solves Wi-Fi network issues with patented machine learning and AI

Enterprise research shows that the monthly costs of managing a Wi-Fi network is $27-30 per AP (IT, service fee and/or troubleshooting). With KodaCloud, there is no upfront cost for equipment, software licensing or network management fees. There’s just one simple monthly payment that provides a reliable Wi-Fi network as a service — with proactive network monitoring that’s powered by machine learning and AI. And yes, the fee per AP is less than the aforementioned research. Now put that into context as you contemplate the cost of buying and managing Access Points over 3-4 years, versus free refresh and upgrades from a service partner. Yes, it’s a no brainer!

However, the $12 Billion Wi-Fi equipment market will not stand by idly, and let the as-a-service companies erode away high-profit margin equipment sales. Incumbent vendors will continue to make announcements about “Cloud Wi-Fi”, enticing customers to buy and manage Wi-Fi. This makes good sense for many enterprises. However, if you are one of the 27 million small and medium enterprises, or medium and small hotels, then take notice. Recent research shows that over 60% of SMB want Wi-Fi as a service. MSPs take notice. This means that over 16 million businesses would entertain Wi-Fi as a service (for a fee only). If you do the math, that’s a potential 16 million in recurring revenue every month, at $25 per AP/month or a $24 Billion addressable services opportunity in the USA alone. If you want the revenue breakdown, contact me.

The transition from Capex to Opex has been going on for a while. It started with Software as a Service (SaaS), and the move to Network as a Service is a quiet revolution that’s underway. The great majority of enterprises want managed services. Most enterprises have Gig Ethernet connectivity, which means you can put services further and further away from the actual physical network using the cloud with the benefit of low latency access. With the cloud, you can have one enterprise with 20-30 or more locations, and benefit from one network view to them all.

SaaS has been under way for some time, and it is a multi-billion-dollar industry. Networks are becoming a service. More and more network services are being pushed out from the cloud. Whether it is small cells or Wi-Fi, you need a physical presence with access points or maybe a small controller in some cases, but everything else can sit back in the cloud. NaaS + SaaS becomes a $100 Billion services industry in a short time (firewall, compliance, UC, etc.).

KodaCloud partners with managed service providers (MSPs), IT outsourcers, resellers and technology resellers to provide small and medium size enterprise customers. When one of our partners makes a sale, we ship the equipment directly to the customer. They do not have to keep an inventory. That’s a big margin plus for the MSP. With us, they stand to make 50-80% margins and recurring revenues every month. This is going well, and we just signed our 100th managed services partner in just a few months.

We’re proud of the big accomplishments by a very small team, in a very short time. As a new member, KodaCloud was recognized by the MSP Alliance with a “Best Cloud Solution” Award at the October MSPWorld event. And, this week we received the good news that Wi-Fi Now has recognized KodaCloud by shortlisting us for the “Best New Startup” award at its upcoming event in London. It’s been a great month for KodaCloud, and we appreciate all the help and support from our partners and customers.

Just like HAL 9000, we enjoy working with people. AI + people can make a difference.

Learn more about KodaCloud or contact us direct to schedule a partner discussion, and let’s disrupt Status Quo together.

Cheers,
Ronny Haraldsvik
SVP/CMO, KodaCloud
@haraldsvik

Wi-Fi worries (blog series): What keeps you up at night?

In the world of IT, lots of things keep us up at night.  Among them, Radio Frequency (RF) interference. RF interference is generally a very tricky (and often misunderstood) issue in a modern office environment when it comes to Wi-Fi. If you’re an owner of a business or hotel, this is not a subject to be taken lightly. If anything, RF interference is as much fun as a sore back or a lingering headache.  Yet, for the Wi-Fi geeks, solving RF interference can be a fun challenge.

Let’s examine some commonly experienced (yet rarely solved for) aspects of operating a reliable Wi-Fi network:

 “RF design best practice”

The good old way to address RF Interference is to rely on extensive “best practice” guides that are nothing more than a bunch of knobs that need manual tuning (…wait for it…) by a specialized RF expert. If you’re a small business or a hotel with 100-300 guest rooms, the chance of you having someone like this on staff is the equivalent of finding a $20 bill under your sleepless pillow.

“Best practice” also involves conducting site surveys or periodically using spectrum analyzers to gather and analyze RF parameters. Come again? What!?  Ask your favorite Managed Service Provider (MSP) about spectrum analyzers.  There’s a great chance they’ll know what you mean.

Given how prevalent and dynamic the Wi-Fi environment is (literally) a “metric ton of data” can pass through an Access Point every hour of a day), making sense of the root cause of RF interference is not a task for the faint hearted. Sure, you could try turning any of the three dozen “RF knobs” to get the “right performance” for all those iOS, Android, Windows, or dozens of other devices in your office. And don’t forget the wireless printers and projectors.  All of this might seem easy, but its really not (unless you come from a different planet — where most RF experts live).

The simplest vendor best practice (which makes you question why you spent so much money buying the system in the first place) is to increase the power budget on the radios to compensate for the interference. Forget about neighbors – just “crank it.” (Oh snap!). Remember Newton’s law back in high school? An increase in the power budget causes a reaction and “to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” And so you guessed it, an increase in power will absolutely cause interference elsewhere.  Feeling dizzy? There’s more. Another common vendor best practice is to increase capacity.  “What?  Buy more??”  “Yes, to add capacity you need to add APs.” “But wait, won’t that add more interference?”…sigh.

The truth is recalibrating the RF environment takes anywhere from a few hours to days, especially to “get it right” (or so we hope). Many of you may also have forked out a fortune to have onsite RF experts fine tune your network (or are about to spend some serious dough). In an ideal world with an army of IT staff and unlimited budgets, all of this would have seemed plausible and justifiable.

Hope, at last.

But, the world of Wi-Fi has made advances and there’s a new and more pragmatic solution to dealing with sleepless nights caused by RF interference.

At KodaCloud, we believe in a “No Worries” approach to a Wi-Fi network. Our Cloud Service Wi-Fi uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to learn, adapt and automatically adjust interference parameters in the network we manage, based on learning and real time calculations to compensate for interference. The AI expert system also automatically increases or decreases transmit power and/or receive sensitivity based on the results of the calculations — until the user receives the best RF signal, at which point it locks down the tuning steps and feeds them into the Learning System. All of this happens in a matter of seconds or minutes – not hours or days, even when you do not know that there’s a problem in the first place. KodaCloud’s system is able to collect contextual information in real time, correlate only the variables necessary to deliver a strong RF signal to the end user device and implement an action almost instantaneously. The system also increases capacity to all end users as a result of the action. No human intervention needed. Effortless.

So, if you’re tired of that thing interfering with your sleep, and you do want to engage experts from a different planet, call us or one of our MSP partners. Or start by learning more about how KodaCloud’s AI easily optimizes RF performance.  And then, put aside those guides and tools and see what a delightful experience your users could be receiving.  So long knobs, you served us well.

Wi-Fi – Bliss or curse for your guests and staff?

We all expect a great Wi-Fi experience, especially when paying for a star hotel experience. However, most hotels are challenging to most Wi-Fi systems with guests and staff frequently roaming across halls, lobbies and courtyards with multiple Wi-Fi devices per person. A great Wi-Fi experience can help improve a hotel’s star rating or tank it. Don’t take my word for it, check out Yelp and Hotel Wi-Fi ratings sites (www.hotelwifitest.com). Bad Wi-Fi can be a curse.

Why? With staff and guests roaming around, devices frequently lose associations with AP’s and must reconnect to the Wi-Fi network. This can be a frustrating experience. If unresolved it leads to numerous support tickets for the hotel IT support staff.  In this blog, we’ll examine how traditional solutions recommend solving or working around this issue. We’ll then explain how KodaCloud takes an entirely different approach based on Machine Learning and AI techniques.

Let’s start with a smartphone. Virtually every guest has one of these. In some cases when roaming with a smartphone, it may take longer for the device (depending on the type, model, etc.) to switch to a better AP. This is because they use their own roaming algorithm. In other instances, users may have to hard reset the Wi-Fi connection. In the worst case, they would need to manually switch SSIDs.  Sounds simple, right? Wrong. Think over this. How is a guest supposed to know which AP offers the best signal when roaming at any given time? Or if that AP can assure the same throughput as the prior AP from whose range the guest is moving out of.  What’s worse, if the device is “sticky” to a specific AP, it is very unlikely that the device would gratuitously disconnect and reconnect to neighboring AP’s. Unfortunately, it must be forced to disconnect. (See a related article on this topic http://wifinigel.blogspot.com/2015/03/what-are-sticky-clients.html).

How is a guest ever expected to know of this setting? Such configuration nuances cause tremendous user frustration and support tickets with the hotel IT team. Who then investigate the issue independently (without context) and try to arrive at a reasonable fix. Often at the expense of a few hours or days’ worth of end user productivity. Toggling the Wi-Fi SSID on the smartphone is also a poor end user experience. That’s because applications that were active when connected to the Wi-Fi network would have to reestablished. Surprisingly, there’s never been a convincing solution to this. Off the shelf AP’s simply lack any configuration knobs to manage roaming.  This means when deployed in a hotel with a several hundred thousand square feet of space, users will almost always experience Wi-Fi connectivity loss. Some enterprise Wi-Fi solutions offer proprietary “steering” of clients to APs. But their systems are hardly intelligent. These solutions have too many  parameters to consider, rely on fragmented data and lack historical context. They are not nearly as efficient an AI system that leverages a large data set to make decisions and learns from past behaviors.

KodaCloud takes a very unique approach to solving this issue. In addition to utilizing the standard  802.11 k/v/r methods as needed, our Artificial Intelligence (AI) system determines which among the known AP’s should be designated as “preferred AP” at any instant. This decision rests on historical or current data and is based on usage and signal quality among others. Having richer context through Machine Learning and data mining helps make (and validate) the most optimal AP decision. Furthermore, using machine learned fingerprinting, our system identifies clients that are sticky. The Machine Learning (ML) system uses different steering parameters and mechanisms to steer clients to the preferred AP.  Finally, to minimize excessive client roams, our Machine Learning (ML) system also identifies stationary clients in the pool and chooses not to steer them, unless absolutely necessary.

The ultimate goal is to achieve a healthy mix of steerable and stationary clients by intelligent load balancing across APs. The analysis extends beyond client roaming. If a network is largely misconfigured, such that the furthest AP’s in a coverage area are broadcasting at the highest power and a client device associates with one of those APs, the closer APs are blindsided. This leads to spatial reuse problems and reduces the effective capacity for everyone on the network. We overcome this situation with our patented Machine Learning algorithms, that ensures client roaming is as non-disruptive as possible.

roaming

Here is an example from our own network of how roaming scenarios are successfully optimized by AI to achieve the best outcome for every client in the network. Tell us how you’re solving Wi-Fi roaming issues for your guests and the hotel IT team.

Nilesh Savkoor

 

AI eliminates the knob work in VoWi-Fi

More businesses are moving away from desk phones in favor of VoWi-Fi apps. This encourages worker mobility, user personalization and an “always connected” experience. Yet, the Wi-Fi infrastructure supporting such mobility, lacks the sophistication and care that is absolutely critical in ensuring a fantastic quality of experience (QoE). The primary use case with VoWi-Fi  is being able to roam seamlessly while a call is in progress, without jitter or packet loss. Users expect nothing short of a QoE that emulates landline connections. Yet we all know how unpredictable the Wi-Fi environment can be, varying from office to office. A one-size fits all configuration simply won’t cut it. High ceilings, large metallic structures and signal absorbing concrete walls among other things, can easily turn a pleasant voice conversation into a frustrating experience.

To solve this issue, traditional Cloud Managed Wi-Fi solutions usually recommend creating a voice specific SSID that can be independently controlled and configured– a fine workaround, but yet another operational overhead for IT. Another recommendation is to hard-code safer data rates for the Wi-Fi network. This is a futile exercise, because the physics governing the RF environment quickly renders any specific threshold as ineffective. And once implemented, IT teams must spend countless hours on trial and error attempts to identify the “safe rate” for their environments and adjust knobs that control them. With this approach, it may take days or weeks to simply optimize VoWi-Fi performance, mostly due to a lack of call quality history or any user context. Not to mention the inertia in acting upon poor performing connections, where users simply endure the pain and don’t bother reporting them to IT.  Sadly, the problem lingers and is deferred to another day.

KodaCloud takes a different approach. We don’t believe that users or IT ought to spend a single minute of their busy lives fine-tuning VoWi-Fi knobs. Let alone take performance measurements or optimize in context-poor environments. Rather, we use advanced link adaptation techniques, automatically implemented by AI to enable jitter free voice calls on popular clients such as iOS or Android based smartphones, MacBook’s or others. Our approach ensures that voice frames are transmitted based on dynamically controlled link parameters. Doing it this way ensures voice is always prioritized, transmitted more reliably and at dramatically reduced packet loss. It also requires fewer packet retries; a welcome relief for any Wi-Fi network.

We also use advanced fingerprinting based on machine learning to distinguish between mobile and fixed devices. This approach helps us decide in real-time whether or not we steer a particular device when voice specific traffic is flowing through the network. If users launch voice apps (eg. Skype, Zoom, Highfive) over Wi-Fi from their smartphones, then specific steering parameters are automatically applied to that device. This is vastly different from when users launch voice apps on a fixed device tethered to Wi-Fi, where the steering need is deemed extremely limited. Finally, we identify voice flows through packet inspection and advanced heuristics, and transmit voice traffic with QoS tagging to reinforce reliability of such connections.

All of these AI & Machine Learning driven techniques help IT teams painlessly manage business requirements, without compromising on the quality of experience. The outcome is amazing IT productivity at drastically lower cost of operations, combined with an increase in user satisfaction. Now that we’ve shared our approach with you, don’t hold your silence and let obsolete, manual configuration strategies get in the way of enabling what your users deserve. Speak up and give the KodaCloud approach a test drive!

The End of WLAN AP Sparing

In an active Wi-Fi network, AP’s often need replacement. It’s just inevitable when you have lots of equipment deployed (even with quality hardware). This implies that MSPs managing traditional Wi-Fi solutions, ought to spare sufficient AP’s in order to avoid serious unforeseen costs and downtime complaints from their customers. The downside to this approach is that as technology upgrades frequently, MSPs are stuck holding obsolete inventory – especially if traditional vendors are unwilling to buy back the hardware from the MSP. The additional cost to stock inventory for MSPs serving dozens (if not hundreds) of customers can substantially impact their margins.

Let’s assume an MSP chooses not to stock AP’s. In case of an emergency, customers look to them to procure replacement units within a span of hours. Without strong relationships with large IT distributors, it is unlikely that an MSP can obtain the exact same AP model from their Disti. Many Disti’s selectively stock AP models from a particular vendor. In theory, even though they promote all vendors equally, they generally position 1 or 2 vendor products that help them stack up their margin. Procuring an AP that’s not on the local Disti’s preferred HW models will cost the MSP their own margin. To compound this issue, Next Day rush shipping easily exceeds $50/AP in many instances – nearly 15-20% of the net price of many mid-range AP’s in the market today! It’s even worse when the Wi-Fi outage occurs in a remote branch office, where the AP needs to be shipped.

Unfortunately, in the traditional Hardware plus Software license model (a.k.a “razor blade” model), the channel works on razor thin margins (no pun intended here). Purchasing units in an emergency costs a pretty penny. To make matters worse, the MSP has to bear the hassles of purchasing a SW license for that AP, use them to activate the AP and manage the SW license through renewal. The combined cost – procurement, shipping & handling, labor, activation, renewal – can make deploying traditional Wi-Fi solutions highly unprofitable for MSPs.

With KodaCloud’s Proactive Wi-Fi as a Service, MSPs’ avoid such unnecessary costs:

The KodaCloud RF NOC monitors customer networks 24/7 on behalf of the MSP. AP performance issues that may turn into a replacement event are preemptively caught by the AI system and alerted to the NOC, eliminating any chance of a customer “emergency”
A replacement (that self-updates and auto-configures itself from existing settings) is shipped directly to the customer with a proactive notification to the MSP. The notification includes Customer Name, Location/Site ID and new AP mount location, so the MSP is always in the know. Additionally, being a subscription, there is no separate SW license activation to fret over. Everything needed to restore connectivity comes in the box!

The NOC proactively contacts the MSP and schedules an AP physical replacement window. If the MSP is unable to get to the site, the NOC will notify local installers that can help with physical mounting at a significantly lower cost.

auto-configured-ap-768x347

The outcome is that the customer never experiences extended downtimes. End users are happy and business continues uninterrupted. MSPs gain back valuable time and realize cost savings by not having to handhold AP replacement issues, that traditional vendors simply pass on to their partners today. With proactive support, AP sparing can finally be a thing of the past.