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New WLAN on Campus

We were too early for some new players, but seven companies--established providers Cisco Systems, Enterasys Networks and Symbol Technologies, and start-ups Airespace, Aruba Wireless Networks, Chantry Networks and Trapeze Networks--responded to our invite and saw the project through to completion. Among the notable no-shows, Proxim Corp. responded to our RFP but withdrew during the testing phase, citing planned product-line changes that would make its then-current offerings obsolete by our publication date. Several vendors, including Airflow Networks,Legra Systems, Extreme Networks and Nortel Networks, declined to participate, saying their newest offerings weren't quite ready for testing. Hewlett-Packard, which sells a WLAN system built around products from Proxim and Vernier Networks, declined to participate, citing limited resources. Finally, Intermec Technologies Corp. sent us a detailed explanation of why its device and application-oriented business model wouldn't make the company look good in our scenario. We greatly appreciate its honest assessment.

Take a Chance

Given that our system won't be installed until mid-2004 at the earliest, we feel confident recommending that the university take a close look at several start-up offerings. In fact, we feel that all the start-up products we tested are well-conceived. Depending on your needs, you might choose any one of them, as long as you have the patience to let the products mature a bit and the risk tolerance to deal with a start-up. Remember: These are new, complex systems, and though we have no reason to question the start-ups' ability to execute, frankly, we'd be surprised if their systems were totally stable with version 1.0.

If we had to deploy a system next month, and if we hadn't required some of the advanced security and mobility services offered by the new vendors, we might have gone with a more established provider--Cisco, Enterasys or Symbol--all of which have established technology track records and mature sales and support.

So after perusing many pages of RFP responses and giving each of the seven vendors a day in the lab to show its stuff, which company got our bid?

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