Alcatel, Nortel Ink Wireless OEM, Development Deals


Cisco's Airespace buy leaves networking vendors scrambling


As Cisco Systems closed its acquisition of wireless switch vendor Airespace last week, networking heavyweights Alcatel and Nortel Networks were lining up new vendor partners.

Alcatel last week struck an OEM and development partnership with Aruba Wireless Networks, while Nortel unveiled a similar arrangement with Trapeze Networks.

The Aruba-Alcatel partnership effectively ends a wireless partnership between Airespace and Alcatel. Cisco's acquisition of Airespace also was the lynchpin of Nortel's Trapeze act. Nortel will continue to support its Airespace-sourced products, but the vendor's focus will be on its Trapeze arrangement going forward.

The Aruba deal will allow Paris-based Alcatel to rebrand and resell Aruba's entire product line, said David Butler, vice president of business development at Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Aruba.

The two companies also will engage in cross-licensing of one another's technology and joint development of new wireless technologies.

"We are quickly going to build differentiated Aruba products from Alcatel products," he said. "There's a really aggressive product introduction strategy behind this."

Steve Thorpe, president of Adaptive Communications, a Portsmouth, N.H.-based Nortel partner, said Nortel had to react after Cisco acquired Airespace. "Trapeze is clearly one of the leaders in the space, along with Aruba," he said. "They were getting some good momentum going [in wireless]. Obviously, the acquisition did have an effect."

The deal with Trapeze will allow Nortel to improve upon, rebrand and resell Trapeze's entire WLAN portfolio, said Bruce Van Nice, vice president of marketing at Trapeze, Pleasanton, Calif. Joint development of new technologies and the embedding of Trapeze's WLAN tools into Nortel communications platforms are also part of the new partnership, Van Nice said.

Nortel plans to add its own "special sauce" to the Trapeze product line and then offer the jointly developed products under its own name, said Atul Bhatnager, vice president and general manager of enterprise data networking at Nortel, Brampton, Ontario. The first jointly developed offering, dubbed the WLAN 2300 product family, will debut in May or June.

Over time, Nortel plans to integrate its VPN technology into the wireless platform and also to integrate the wireless technology into its wired network switches, Bhatnager said.

The new product family will include an 802.11a/b/g access point, five wireless switch models and WLAN management software. Pricing has not yet been established. The two companies have been working on joint development efforts since January, Bhatnager said.

Since Alcatel and Nortel chose to partner with rather than acquire WLAN switch vendors, they are vulnerable to repeating history if another player such as 3Com or Juniper Networks makes Aruba or Trapeze an acquisition target, industry observers said.

Trapeze already has an OEM/joint development agreement with 3Com, in place since August.