Extreme Urges Municipalities To Make Sure They Have A Robust, Secure Network For Smart City Efforts

Vendors and channel partners must educate municipalities about the need for a robust, well-managed network to carry out smart city and IoT initiatives, according to an Extreme Networks leader.

"Unfortunately, a lot of states, counties, and cities don't look at the network as a strategic business asset," said Brian O'Connor, general manager of Extreme's public sector vertical. "And we're getting called on together – this is the mindset change we need to do."

Surveys have indicated that the network needs to be upgraded virtually every time a channel partner sells born-worn cameras, smart locks, access control or video surveillance equipment so that these devices can be adequately supported, O'Connor told channel partners during XChange SLED 2017, hosted by CRN parent The Channel Company.

[RELATED: XChange SLED Keynote: Solution Providers Can Unleash Smart Cities Windfall By Breaking Down Silos]

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"When you're going in and establishing requirements for your application for the next customer, why not go in with a networking provider who can provide the infrastructure required on that day?" O'Connor said this week at the Grand Hyatt Atlanta.

New York City, for instance, is looking to manage and collect data from two to three million devices, which O'Connor said will require a massive investment in establishing and managing network connections.

"Smart buildings and secure campuses are all that we're playing in very aggressively," O'Connor said. "With the significant growth that's happening with IoT and smart cities, a robust, well-managed network is essential."

Extreme's know-how around both wired and wireless networks puts the San Jose, Calif.-based vendor in the unique position of supporting the infrastructure that undergirds smart buildings, smart cities, and safe cities, O'Connor said.

A global study conducted by Extreme found that network security and network bandwidth are two of the top concerns of municipal governments, O'Connor said, followed by the durability of smart devices, analytics and training.

Nearly two-thirds of municipal governments are aware of the smart cities concept, O'Connor, and have started making plans that could include channel partners. And with $39.5 billion of new infrastructure projects pending across the country, O'Connor encouraged partners to examine the states they work in and get in front of contracts before they expire.

Smart school initiatives around both K-12 and higher education are also part of many smart cities programs, O'Connor said. Extreme has taken an aggressive stance in the K-12 space, O'Connor said, thanks in part to a wireless access point camera developed as a single unit.

Solution providers looking to enter the SLED market, though, need to be prepared for a long sales cycle, O'Connor said. Most channel partners will need 18 to 36 months to figure out how municipal governments operate from a footprint, funding and components standpoint and fully shift gears, O'Connor said.

All told, O'Connor said both the amount of IT investment and the size of the network required by public sector entities is increasing. O'Connor said it's therefore essential to have a network that can be easily managed by either seasoned professionals or less experienced staff.

"Your most strategic business asset is the network," O'Connor said.

Selectron has implemented smart city-type projects for specific municipal departments but isn't currently offering any networking components or advice, according to Executive Vice President Dan Porter.

Porter knows that major cities such as Atlanta, Philadelphia and New York are trying to put in both wired and wireless networks, but he isn't sure how applicable the networking piece will be to the 500 smaller and midsized cities supported by Portland, Ore.-based solution provider.

Selectron, therefore, wants to further assess the networking opportunity in the markets it serves, Porter said. Based on how that turns out, Porter said the solution provider will likely either partner with others or build up networking capabilities itself.