Adtran Ups Stake In Wireless LAN Market With Bluesocket Buy

Adtran has acquired virtual wireless LAN specialist Bluesocket, a move that thrusts Adtran into the cutthroat wireless LAN segment of the market.

Terms of the acquisition, set to be formally announced Tuesday, were not disclosed. Most of Bluesocket's 35-person team will remain in place as Bluesocket, based in Burlington, Mass., becomes a unit of Adtran. Bluesocket President and CEO Mads Lillelund will become general manager of the Bluesocket business unit, reporting into Rick Schansman, senior vice president and general manager of Adtran's Enterprise Networks Division.

According to Gary Bolton, Adtran's vice president, global marketing, it's come time for Adtran to expand its networking footprint further into wireless LAN based on how quickly business customers are moving to wireless infrastructure.

Adtran looked at a number of wireless LAN players, Bolton told CRN Monday, but found Bluesocket's technology particularly compelling.

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Bluesocket, which was founded in 1999 and is venture capital-backed, was named a "visionary" in Gartner's 2011 magic quadrant for wireless LAN infrastructure. It's been acclaimed for a completely virtualized control plane for managing wireless infrastructure, meaning less money spent by customers on hardware-based WLAN controllers.

Bluesocket has been developing a channel partner community based on its vWLAN 802.11n software, and earlier this year, joined VMware's Technology Alliance Partner program. Bluesocket's vWLAN software sits on one of the company's BlueSecure appliances, but can also be loaded onto a server or a VMware instance.

Bluesocket touts itself as an emerging player among wireless LAN vendors moving away from a more traditional hardware-based controller architecture for wireless. Aerohive Networks, for example, pushes a controller-less approach to WLAN infrastructure.

"There's an industry-wide upgrade happening around the globe, and end-user behavior is completely different than it was even a few months ago with the proliferation of smartphones and iPads and machine-to-machine wireless devices," Bolton said. "So it's really all about scale, and when we did our due diligence, we looked for an architecture that provides near-limitless scale."

"What we see emerging is a controller-less [scenario]," added Chris Koeneman, vice president of sales and marketing at Bluesocket. "The single-purpose controller really constrains what you can do. The enterprise is asking to leverage computing and then leverage the power of virtualization and eliminate the cost or scale constraints of the controller."

NEXT: Adtran's New Stake in WLAN

Acquiring Bluesocket will put Adtran into more direct competition with a small galaxy of wireless LAN vendors, from established titans like Cisco and Aruba Networks to upstart players like Meru Networks and Ruckus Wireless. There are a number of newer market entrants, too; Juniper Networks made the move into wireless LAN last fall, when it acquired Trapeze for $152 million.

"If you look at the network today, it's two parallel networks -- a wireless and a wireline," Bolton said. "We believe it needs to be one seamless network with seamless scalability. We went out and looked at a number of people in this market and what put us toward Bluesocket was the virtualization."

Adtran in late 2009 entered the unified communications space with its NetVanta UC line, but this time around, it didn't make sense to build a new technology in-house, Bolton said.

The wireless LAN upgrade many enterprises are experiencing is already underway -- "those decisions are being made now," he said.

"Neither of us could wait," Bolton explained. "They needed the channels, and we needed the solution. It's like chocolate and peanut butter."

Bluesocket has a small group of large enterprise- and large campus-focused solution providers -- including a handful that are also Adtran partners -- but nowhere near Adtran's community of about 3,000 VARs.

Adtran will spend the next few months onboarding those Bluesocket partners, introducing its own partners to the Bluesocket technology, and also looking to recruit wireless LAN VARs that have not been Adtran partners in the past.

"You'll see the real advantage of having all-Adtran networks, and to make this seamless across the enterprise," Bolton said. "The other part we're real excited about is to ramp out the solution on a global basis. We're right in the middle of a technology upgrade cycle, and to have an incredibly highly differentiated solution, how sexy is that? Our channel partners and service providers will be very excited."