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LAN3 positioning for a software defined future

The networking specialist is celebrating its 10th birthday and has seen plenty of changes in the networking market since it started in 2008

If you were going to start a business then just a few weeks before the recession started in 2008 might not have been the best time.

But the founders of networking specialist LAN3 Steve Thompson and Martin Jones were not to know that shortly after they quit their stable sales jobs and started the firm with a budget of £10,000 that the world would start to get a lot tougher.

The business started selling by selling 3COM hardware, hence the 3 in the name, and focused on selling into education customers as the enterprise market started to slip into arguably the worst recession since the 1930s.

Things were going well with 3Com and the firm became a valued partner for the vendor but the acquisition by HP meant that things changed and not long after that LAN3 chose to start working with Extreme Networks.

Most people would have heard of Extreme thanks to the numerous acquisitions it made over the past 18 months but at the time it was a chance for LAN3 to do something different, which is an approach it has stuck to.

The other change that the management of LAN3 spotted was the arrival of the iPhone. It had a profound impact on the network because staff started turning up at offices all over the country trying to connect. That meant investments had to be made by customers in both providing more bandwidth as well as making wifi more widely available.

Smartphones, tablets and now chromebooks have continued to change the networking market and the team at LAN3 not only spotted that early but made sure they could react to the changing demands from customers, which has seen it move heavily into services.

The changes also saw the channel player striking up some more vendor relationships and Thompson made the connection between the need for wifi and the cloud and the firm started working with Aerohive and developing a hosted offering.

"We like to look at solving problems and not being something different. We use different technology and build up a wrap around it," he said.

As time has gone on and the vendor portfolio has expanded LAN3 has found itself working with Dell networking and as a result getting pulled into more enterprise opportunities.

The education business remains important but the enterprise opportunities are emerging and the firm is making sure it has the ability to support that.

"The enterprise business has now grown even more and people want managed services and we can support customers," said Thompson who added that the plan is to almost double overall revenues over the next three years.

The values that were there from the start have remained with Thompson listing its three main qualities for winning business the facts it listens, gives the personal touch and delivers what the customer wants.

The firm now employs 33 people, which should rise to around 37 fairly soon, and is looking to drive the business forward.

"We have to change the mindset. We are not just little old LAN3 in Oxfordshire," said Thompson.

The next phase is likely to be driven by software with the firm already involved with SDN, SD-WAN and making sure it is ahead of the game when it comes to keeping up with the direction the networking industry is heading in.

The firm recently set up a 'software defined' department to make sure it is leading the way.

For Thompson the passion is still there after a decade to grow the business and make a difference.

"We would not have got here without being as enthusiastic about who we are," he added "LAN3 I absolutely love and I have the personal drive to make it succeed."

The next decade should include more software, automation and even more services coming out of LAN3 as the firm positions itself for the future and navigates constantly changing waters in the networking market.

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