YEAR IN REVIEW: Wireless wraps up 2000

With the explosion of data, business critical applications, voice/data convergence and the need to secure the environment all powering across a company's network, the big issues facing integrators in 2000 revolve around the quality of service for network connectivity.

IP was a given, while integrators carefully weighed up a chorus of promises from vendors on one hand and an equally loud shout from customers - should the network go down - on the other. And every network, even the Nasdaq, has a spell in the dark at some point.

The voice/data convergence legacy from 1999 was at the forefront of most agendas but without fatter pipes it still never reached critical mass in 2000. Smaller carriers sprouted under Telstra's unbundling of the local loop - the ACCC didn't find it as generous as Telstra - and the promised broadband DSL Blitzkrieg had an unspectacular beginning.

Wireless became the hot ticket. Bluetooth was offering personal area networks at maximum speeds of 2Mbps, while most banked on the IEEE 802.11b standard of around 11Mbps. Others went searching for Internet connectivity with satellites, microwave, radio and other wireless technology such as Western Multiplex's Tsunami Ethernet Bridge with speeds up to 100Mbps. WAP, on the other hand, failed to take off.

Meanwhile, 3G began being auctioned off around the world - blowing the industry away with carriers falling over themselves not to bid for the spectrum.

As a result vendors, backed to the hilt with R&D or acquisition budgets, got smarter with the technology they tried to flog through the channel. Cisco could be counted on for a number of acquisitions, even its accountants appeared to lose count at one point, but it was its acquisition of local development company Radiata that caught local attention. Radiata's wireless offerings in the 802.11a standard meant Cisco can now produce wireless products up to 55Mbps while the industry - to be forever subjected to Cisco's pricing model - could be grateful to the two founders of Radiata who pocketed $567 million in the deal.

With everyone concentrating on pushing applications through pipes never designed for such purpose, fiber optic became sexy and network management software (and associated services) helped a number of integrators invest in their children's tertiary education. But shortages, as experienced by a number of players including Nortel, meant the channel had a fun time juggling rollouts with cashflow.

The amount of traffic on LANs, VPNs and the Web combined with vendors out to gain the competitive edge meant switch manufacturers dug deeper into the packets for a differentiating factor. Despite having some great technology, the competition was too rich for 3Com's blood, cashing in its chips at the high end. Layer 3 and Layer 4 switching became a commodity and everyone tried their hand at Web switching - all good things for integrators with a host of goodies to choose from and competition driving prices down. Until the Australian dollar crashed . . .

From then it was only a matter of time before vendors, who had been absorbing the currency difference, began raising prices. Cisco was the first networking manufacturer to formally raise the bar, while others who quote prices in US dollars anyway had been doing it for some time.

With so much new technology in the market, training became paramount. Vendors and distributors came to the party with more and more training courses on offer, and resellers' employees reciprocated by leaving for better paid jobs once they'd been skilled up.

But this is only a sketch of the year that was, and with most companies feeling pretty happy about signing off on another calendar year, all eyes are turning to what lies ahead in 2001.

Network highlights 2000

2/2 Alcatel insists it's business as usualVendor insists Shanghai headquarters will not have a negative impact on channel8/3 Integrators chase services tailIntegrators and analysts warn planning is necessary for network management services21/3 3Com exits enterprise network stageVendor lets LAN/WAN and analog modem business fall by the wayside20/4 Cabletron to ditch digital networksDigital Networks product group goes up for sale26/4 LAN Systems: SoldFrew bows out as Datatec signs distributor into Westcon Group3/5 Ingram Micro switches focus to networkingExecutives dispute suggestions two-tier model is dying as APAC operations gather steam24/5 Ingram Micro signs NAI partnershipDistribution heavyweight to distribute NAI network security and management software products31/5 SAN integrators too thin on the groundRevenue growth is being stifled by lack of integration partners, say distributors21/6 Servers dry upChannel faces chronic Intel server shortage23/8 LTO is coming to Australia - who's ready?

Vendors finally ramp up open format tape drive offerings after long delays, the race is on to get to market first13/9 Novell slashes workforce by 16 per centNetworking heavyweight undergoes major restructuring, local office avoids heavy losses4/10 LAN Systems get smartDistributor focuses on the opportunities in the emerging content-aware switch market18/10 Cisco bags $100M Telstra dealChannel gets the fend but vendor adamant direct nature unavoidable25/10 Wilson departs from 3ComAmicable split for MD as he seeks greener pastures at CRM vendor1/11 Red-M sinks enterprise toothMadge subsidiary targets enterprise applications with its first Bluetooth server22/11 Cable Network goes liveLocal wireless developer purchased