Stallion Technologies has released the new LantraServer remote access server aimed directly at the Windows NT small business market. Stallion's president and CEO, Bill Kiely (above), was in Australia recently to launch the product. While he was here he spoke to IDG's Ian Yates about the challenges of competing with the big boys in the network space and the virtues of hitching his wagon to Microsoft's team of Windows NT horsesIan Yates: Since the market research gurus tell us that small business predominantly uses Novell NetWare at the moment, why are you releasing a product that wants Windows NT before it will work?
Bill Kiely: Stallion has been supporting the SME (small to medium enterprise) customers for 10 years now with our multi-port cards for Unix servers. We don't intend to stop doing that, it's a $70 million business that just keeps going with hardly any advertising. We think the new wave of small business users are going to want NT since it looks like Windows 95, and they see that as good, and NT has most of the remote access hooks bolted right into the system. The Lantra is aimed at a new niche market for us. NT is growing and we intend to be the guys who provide the dial-in solution for that market.
Yates: Why would people buy a Lantra if NT has its RAS built-in? Can't they just buy a modem and hang it on the back of their server?
Kiely: Sure. But what happens when they want more than one dial-up line? We are supporting eight modems right out of the box. Inside the Lantra we've added a GUI to configure the product. We have a web server inside the box, and it guides the user through the installation process, hooking up terminals, modems, printers, scanners - it's not just for modems. And we provide for that management over a dial-up line.
Yates: How are you going to get people to think of Stallion for remote access? Don't the other players like Cisco, Bay, Shiva, 3Com etc have the market sewn up?
Kiely: The biggest challenge is going to be proper marketing. We've spent up on the creative side to get high quality presentations. We know it's hard to break into a new niche. You have to earn market share.
Yates: How are you positioning against Shiva? They seem to have done a good job with their LANRovers so far.
Kiely: We're using Shiva as our model initially, but they're under a lot of pressure price-wise. We're offering the Lantra at $2995 which is about half the Shiva price with about 90 per cent of the functionality. The other 10 per cent is provided by using Windows NT so you save money and lose nothing by going to the Lantra.
Yates: What story will you be pushing that will make small business buy Lantras instead of turning to Cisco or Bay?
Kiely: We are preparing a campaign that pitches us against them directly. We know that they all say they are in the small business market, and we'll be showing how, from a pricing standpoint, they are not affordable by small business. And from a technical and ease of use standpoint they won't be able to move their products down to this market at anywhere near our price. We think that small business wants those so-called enterprise features but they can't spend the money that is being asked by Cisco and the like.
Yates: Why have you decided to make the Lantra a Windows NT based solution?
Kiely: We're relying on Microsoft to provide the esoteric protocols - in NT 5.0 they claim that they're going to have routing capabilities equal to a Cisco - we all know Microsoft lies and it may take them three releases to get there - but you can see what that potential ability will do for our dial-in servers, without us doing any extra work. We're providing full dial-in and dial-out services and our market share will increase as Windows NT increases its penetration.
Yates: Aren't companies like Cisco and Bay going to be trying to ride the NT wave as well?
Kiely: NT is their biggest enemy. If the routing capability inside 5.0 is only half of what Microsoft say it is, that's going to be a serious problem for them. They could end up in a serious marketing war to convince people that they still need stand-alone routers. We aren't going to be affected by that, you'll still need dial-in solutions regardless of where you're routing happens.
Yates: I still don't see how you can sell into the huge NetWare market with this product.
Kiely: If you look at the remote access for small business today, yes it's NetWare. But it's complicated and it's hard to get it working for dial-up, but the suckers eventually work so people aren't going to screw with it. Novell has done such a bad marketing job that if Microsoft delivers directory services in 5.0 that are anywhere near decent, then Novell just hasn't got a reason left to be chosen. It'll be a logical move for most of those NetWare networks, which are ageing, to at least evaluate NT as a solution. After all, 90 per cent of the desktops run Microsoft Windows, so it will be perceived as an easy move and a way forward. So it's the market that will move to NT - we don't need to move to NetWare.
Yates: Are you confident that small business will provide enough revenue in the remote access arena?
Kiely: We've picked a place where it's clear that the big boys want to play, but right now they don't have small business solutions. They call their big iron stuff small business but only the Fortune 500 can afford to invest in that gear. We're ready to roll now with a remote access product that small business can afford and can get running without hiring experts. The key is to move quickly and grab that market.
Yates: Isn't there a danger that others will notice that NT provides this good platform to leverage and will just plain copy you at a lower price point?
Kiely: It opens the door for that, but the bridge isn't that easy. We have a full BSD kernel inside our box, and that's based on our 10 years of working in that market. But the end-users only see a web interface. That sort of requirement for software development is going to make it hard for start-ups to come up to speed against us. We can't compete with print servers, but we eliminate the need for them and provide dial-in as well. If price became an issue we can move downwards. I don't think we could get the cost of manufacture much lower but we can take less profit once we get volume.