Rob Fuggetta had something of a dilemma last month. Access aggregator GoRemote stood accused of exaggerating its hotspot numbers. As vice president of worldwide marketing there, he had to do something. His only problem was, any response would tend to exaggerate the importance of Wi-Fi in an overall remote access scheme.
In the end, on the day that competitor iPass made a claim for 10,000 Wi-Fi locations worldwide, Fuggetta unceremoniously resigned from the whole "pissing match", in an interview that put Wi-Fi into its proper place, as far as GoRemote is concerned, as just one component of a remote access service.
Figures not so bad
Although the figures show that iPass does have more Wi-Fi locations, the difference is not as great as our earlier article made it seem. The figures were based on a reseller which only handles a subset of GoRemote's hotspots.
The company now has around 7,600 locations. That's still short of iPass' more-than-10,000 but puts it comfortably in the same league, says Fuggetta, who also wants to set future numbers on a solid footing: "As a company we want to set the industry standard as far as reporting of Wi-Fi coverage goes."
However, any focus on hotspot numbers is more driven by media Wi-Fi interest than actual demand from users, he says: "I can't remember a time when an enterprise customer asked how many hotspots we have," says Fuggetta. "The usual question is how can you manage and support my large and growing work force?"
"We're not a mobility company, we're not a consumer Wi-Fi access company," he says. "We are an enterprise networking solutions provider. We connect everyone outside the firewall."
Putting Wi-Fi in its place
Wi-Fi is still only a small part of the remote access market, says Fuggetta. The overall mix still shows companies' use of broadband for homeworking ramping up sharply.
Like iPass, GoRemote comes from a background of aggregating dial-up access and has added new forms of access to its portfolio as each has emerged.
Where the companies differ is in GoRemote's efforts to deliver the whole service, including security and management. Fuggetta points to his company's Universal Remote Control, a network management console for IT directors to take charge of remote access users.
"GoRemote is the only provider in the industry to have a comprehensive solution for everthing outside the corporate firewall," says Fuggetta. "We have automatic remediation and access security." According to him, analyst Gartner puts GoRemote in a different category of managing remote access: "Gartner don't put iPass on the map," he says. "If you have thousands of people in corporate offices, iPass can only point you to a partner."
(This is something that iPass's Doug Loewe acknowledges: end-to-end service has to be specialised, he argues, as end user needs vary so much. Despite increasing its security features, iPass's approach is deliberately more basic, as Loewe's interview with Techworld shows).
"We wake up every morning with one goal," says Fuggetta. "How do we make the lives of IT managers simpler, and simplify remote access?"
The bigger questions
"We are solving for enterprise customers a much bigger problem than x versus y hotspots," says Fuggetta. "Broadband versus analogue is a bigger question than Wi-Fi. The trend is towards broadband, with dial-up used for cost or other reasons."
Like iPass' Loewe, Fuggetta is agnostic on future technologies, with no published plans for 3G, and no urge to come down on either side of the Wi-Fi versus 3G debate: "It's not an either or, just a general trend to mobile broadband."
"With the current state of Wi-Fi it's not truly untethered," he says. "The user is tied to a hotspot, a space of maybe 300 feet. Our ultimate vision is for the employee on the move to get secure remote access truly from anywhere, regardless of location."
The eventual answer will include options like WiMax: "As soon as WiMax become commercially available, and ready for the enterprise, we will be at the leading edge of delivering that," he says. "We wil use the same business model to incorporate it into our solution."
Fuggetta differs from iPass again on the issue of the limits of his system as a gatekeeper. While iPass's Loewe wants to see the iPass client guarding access, even to in-building corporate LANs, Fuggetta does not see GoRemote in that light.
"We are a company that is going to stick to its knitting," he says. "What we are experts on is remote access. The challenges there give us plenty of room to grow the company."
Remote access really is exploding, he says, with the number of companies offering their users remote access to the corporate doubling over the last year "The number of remote workers will grow to 150m by 2006 and 97 percent of enterprises already have some mobile and remote workers," he says, quoting IDC analysts.
"Ensuring that those remote workers are secure is a big problem, getting more urgent and greater," he says. "The order of priority is security, management, and then access."