Adtran's Bluesocket Buy Gets Thumbs Up From Channel

Adtran's acquisition of wireless LAN upstart Bluesocket will be a big plus for solution providers thanks to how it expands what Adtran can offer for wireless products and puts bigger and better channel resources behind Bluesocket's virtualized WLAN technology.

Adtran confirmed the acquisition earlier this week, and in the deal, gets all of the Burlington, Mass.-based vendor's assets, intellectual property and customers. Terms of the deal, which was closed Aug. 4, were not provided. Most of Bluesocket's 35-person team will now report into Adtran's Enterprise Networks Division.

It's Adtran's first significant acquisition since acquiring Objectworld in 2009, and according to Adtran executives, Bluesocket was best fit among wireless LAN players that it looked at as acquisition targets.

For Adtran and Bluesocket partners, too, it appears to be a strong combination.

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Jeronimo Romero, managing partner and CTO of EUS Networks, a New York-based solution provider, said he's waiting to see how Adtran will integrate Bluesocket's technology into its routing, switching and unified communications offerings.

"Personally, I'm very excited about it," Romero said. "I get to see the Adtran stamp on a company that makes very good products. I say 'yeah' because Adtran's [wireless products] are OK, but Bluesocket is at a different level."

Eric Winegar, president and CEO of National LAN Exchange, an Orem, Utah-based solution provider and Bluesocket partner, sees the acquisition as a "great move for both companies."

"For Adtran, it fleshes out definitely a growth market as well as the technology on the wireless side," he said. "For Bluesocket, it brings a tremendous amount of engineering depth as well as a complementary product offering. It's nothing but upside."

NLE has a rudimentary partnership with Adtran, Winegar said, but now that Bluesocket is in the mix, he's filed a partner application to upgrade his status with the company. NLE has been an established partner with Bluesocket for many years and having Adtran behind Bluesocket's technology will be a "shot in the arm," he said.

"They have a plethora of authentication methods and their virtual WLAN is really interesting," Winegar said of Bluesocket. "But it's been a small, kind of overlooked company when all of the mergers and acquisitions were happening in the high time for wireless. Adtran probably got one of the better deals out there."

Key to Bluesocket's appeal is its vWLAN offering, in which 802.11n wireless access points rely on a software application placed on a VMware hypervisor. In other words, in a vWLAN deployment, Bluesocket completely virtualizes the control plane for managing wireless infrastructure.

Winegar sees Bluesocket's virtualized approach as unique among wireless vendors, and a good way for Adtran to separate itself from the WLAN infrastructure providers that sell primarily hardware-based controllers.

"Bluesocket has a great story, and when you couple that with VMware and a lot of the operating efficiencies and survivability efficiencies, there's really not another product like it in wireless," he said.

David Johnson, president and CEO of Avon, Ohio-based distributor Jenne, said the acquisition is an encouraging sign that Adtran is willing to expand into hot growth markets.

The Bluesocket buy and WLAN expansion follows on Adtran's formal entry into the unified communications space in late 2009 leveraging the Objectworld acquisition.

"We're excited about it," Johnson said. "It continues to round out their portfolio after recently getting into the whole UC space as well. They can drive a more holistic solution for their customers."

Partner reaction he's heard so far to the deal has been decidedly positive, Johnson said. Adtran's reputation as a service-oriented company -- especially its post-sales support, which several VARs interviewed by CRN cited as well -- will endear it to the wireless LAN channel, he said.

Wireless LAN is also a growth market for Jenne as a distributor. It's a hugely competitive market segment, Johnson admitted, but Adtran brings networking breadth to the game that other WLAN-specific players like Aruba Networks and Meru Networks don't have.

"They're competing against people with wireless LAN technology that have pieces," he said. "Adtran is able to have more of an end-to-end solution."

Next: Why Bluesocket Works For Adtran

Chris Clauss, manager for the Advanced Solutions Team at Strategic Products and Services, a Parsippany, N.J.-based solution provider, agreed that the Bluesocket buy expands Adtran's purview.

"After first capturing WAN access, then firewall and routing, followed by voice, Adtran now does wireless," Clauss said. "This acquisition gives Adtran further inroads by offering their customers a one-stop shop for their data networking needs."

Zeus Kerravala, senior vice president and distinguished research fellow at The Yankee Group, compared Adtran's move to the acquisition of Trapeze Networks by Juniper last fall, which thrust Juniper into the WLAN space.

Unlike Juniper, however, Adtran bought a company at the cutting edge of wireless LAN trends, Kerravala wrote in a blog post for No Jitter.

"Trapeze was one of the first wireless providers to separate the control and data planes and there was a window where they had a technology advantage over the market leaders Aruba and Cisco," Kerravala wrote. "However, Aruba and Cisco have caught up and it's unlikely that Juniper can significantly gain share with a product that is actually well behind Cisco and Aruba now."

The approach taken by Bluesocket -- along with other emerging vendors like Aerohive and Meraki that push a controller-less approach to WLAN management -- gives Adtran a potential advantage that it can't afford to waste, he said.

"For Adtran to take advantage of this new asset, they'll need to step on the gas and be a lot more edgy and marketing-focused than they have in the past," Kerravala wrote. "Those who know Adtran know them to be a very well run, efficient company with high quality products. They also know that Adtran's marketing prowess, particularly on the enterprise side, is somewhat limited."

Buying its way into market segments has typically not been Adtran's game, Kerravala noted.

"Adtran has historically built almost everything," he wrote. "Instead of buying a switch vendor, it built its own; instead of buying a UC vendor, it built its own; so I find that it chose to buy here a recognition of how fast and how competitive the wireless LAN market is."