Aruba Targets Cisco With AirWave Acquisition

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Mike Tennefoss, head of strategic marketing for Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Aruba, said the upcoming 802.11n wireless LAN standard and the ability to offer network management in multi-vendor environments were key catalysts for the acquisition, which is expected to close in March to the tune of $37 million in cash and stock. According to Tennefoss, wireless users don't want forklift upgrades to their WLAN as they cut over to 11n and transition from the core to the edge. Essentially, users want a single platform that can handle both 11n and other standards like 802.11 a/b/g.

Additionally, Tennefoss said, many Aruba users are looking for a new network management system, like that offered by San Mateo, Calif.-based AirWave. Tennefoss also noted that AirWave tools can centrally manage large, multi-vendor wireless LANs, wireless mesh and WiMax networks, meaning Aruba will be able to offer multi-vendor mobility management tools and the acquisition will enable Aruba to better support its expanding ecosystem of technology partners.

"For the first time now, Aruba has this available market of Cisco customers that it didn't have before," Tennefoss said, adding that a good number of AirWave customers use AirWave tools in their Cisco deployments. Buying AirWave opens that door for Aruba, which can now offer AirWave's wireless management to existing Cisco customers along with Aruba's wireless intrusion detection, endpoint compliance and a host of other solutions that will compliment their Cisco installed base without the need for replacement.

On the channel side, Tennefoss said the acquisition is a win-win. When the deal closes in March, Aruba VARs will be able to start offering AirWave as an add on in Aruba's distribution channel. AirWave will also continue to be sold direct.

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"Our partners will be able to sell a new best-in-class management suite both on a stand alone basis with other vendors' wireless products, and as a new addition to a full Aruba solution sale," Tennefoss said. "Putting Aruba's global support and distribution infrastructure behind this suite further de-risks an Airwave choice for new customers."

Tennefoss noted that Airwave already has strong relationships with some of Aruba's partners and resellers and Aruba will be made available to those the vendor has not yet worked with.

"In North America active partners will have a large available Aruba portfolio via our PartnerEdge program "- we'll take a similar approach overseas," Tennefoss said.

Resellers can also add more to their arsenal with Airwave in the picture, Tennefoss said. Instead of approaching a customer with an "all or nothing" package, they can offer a "graceful migration strategy."

Oftentimes, legacy and new networking gear runs side-by-side due to the introduction of new technologies and certain users upgrade paths and budgets. Tennefoss said AirWave's platform helps ease the transition by extending the life of existing investments and allowing solutions form several vendors to be run and managed from a common centralized system. Along with Aruba, AirWave can manage wares from a host of different vendors including Cisco Systems, HP's ProCurve Networking Division, Motorola/Symbol, Avaya, Foundry, Proxim, 3Com, Trapeze and Tropos.

"You don't have to make an all or nothing decision," Tennefoss said. "Resellers can help them migrate from old to new. They can also go back into existing customers and offer a new network management tool. It's an opportunity to go back into existing customers."

Tennefoss said many wireless vendors try to offer a single solution that includes wireless LAN management, but no one vendor can offer best-in-class solutions for each component.

"Vendors are trying to force a single solution system through the sieve and the holes don't always line up just right and you get a mismatch," he said.

In a statement, Dominic Orr, Aruba CEO and president, echoed the growth of multi-vendor networks and the need for a unified way to support a heterogeneous environment.

"We believe it is important to respect customers' choices in these matters, and this acquisition positions us as the first mobility vendor to move beyond simple interoperability and offer cross-vendor network management, too," he said. "Whether a customer wants to preserve some existing assets, or stage a phased rollout of new technologies like 802.11n, the management of multi-vendor legacy and new devices is imperative."

Burton Group senior analyst Paul DeBeasi said the AirWave buy can give Aruba an edge in the management of multi-vendor environments.

"This acquisition adds depth to Aruba's feature set, as well as bringing with it a range of standalone software products that can be sold to a completely new base of prospects," DeBeasi said.

Current Analysis enterprise network systems analyst Michael Brandenburg said the acquisition will ultimately help centralize management of multi-vendor WLAN deployments, which have become common.

"Network management is an essential component of every WLAN solution, but is usually the piece that receives the least attention," he said in a statement.