Solution Providers Expect 'Bullish' Year For Networking

Solution providers are expecting to see a year of overall networking growth for 2015, with areas such as wireless and unified communications showing big promise.

"I see a bullish market overall for 2015," said Kent MacDonald, vice president of converged infrastructure and network services at Long View Systems, a Calgary, Alberta-based solution provider that partners with Cisco Systems and VCE.

MacDonald predicts Long View will grow sales by 10 percent to 30 percent in 2015, including healthy growth in its Cisco business. The company saw 30 percent to 40 percent growth in its Cisco business in 2014 and expects to match that level of growth this year, he said.

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Bill Smeltzer, CTO of Focus Technology Solutions, a Seabrook, N.H.-based Cisco partner, is expecting a 10 percent to 15 percent increase in its networking business for 2015 compared to 2014.

Smeltzer said wireless networking will be a big growth driver in 2015.

"High density [wireless networking] and [wireless equipment based on] 802.11ac will continue to remain hot," he said via email.

Boston-based market research firm Infonetics in a recent report said 802.11ac access points now account for nearly one-quarter of all access point shipments. The firm said 802.11ac access point penetration is up almost tenfold over the past year, with almost one million units shipped in the third quarter.

San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco has seen strong growth in its wireless business of late. The company reported in its first-quarter earnings, ended Oct. 25, that its wireless business grew 11 percent year-over-year.

"Wireless, mobile access ... we certainly see that as a big bet," said MacDonald. "It's not just connectivity anymore; it's how do you drive business value from intelligence and presence with wireless? So the things that Cisco and Meraki are doing around the commercial and retail space, and education space -- we certainly see a lot of upside and opportunity there."

In 2012, Cisco purchased Meraki, a networking startup that specialized in cloud-based management of wired and wireless infrastructures, for $1.2 billion. Cisco is using Meraki's management platform to deliver cloud-controlled networking products to small and midsize businesses.

Solution providers also are expecting unified communications to continue to grow steadily in the coming year.

Smeltzer said he is seeing a "good amount" of interest in Microsoft Lync with Microsoft Office 365, which includes Voice over IP (VoIP), instant messaging and videoconferencing capabilities inside the client software.

MacDonald believes the unified communications market will grow due to the technology's business value.

"It reduces travel, you can get more collaboration from your team, you can have these geodispersed work groups that can work more effectively and be more efficient by using collaboration technologies," said MacDonald.

In November, Microsoft announced that in 2015, Lync will be replaced by Skype for Business, which will combine features of Lync and the consumer-focused Skype software.

With so many new innovations and projects coming from the collaboration side, solution providers believe some of those technologies will drive opportunity in 2015.