Adtran Touts Bluesocket Buy As WLAN Channel Game Changer

"It's the biggest door opener I've got today," said Rick Schansman, senior vice president and general manager of Adtran's Enterprise Networks Division, in an interview with CRN Tuesday. "We plan to water that puppy and make it grow. I didn't want to absorb it into my portfolio and have it be another SKU. It's been a success already, and we're only a few months into it. It's exciting technology."

Adtran's Bluesocket buy is a hot topic at its Adtran Connect conference for press and analysts, taking place this week at Adtran's Huntsville, Ala. headquarters. Since the deal was announced in August, reaction to the acquisition from partners has been positive from both sides: Adtran gets a cutting-edge wireless solution and Bluesocket's under-marketed products get exposure to an established channel apparatus of more than 3,400 Adtran partners.

Founded in 1999, Burlington, Mass.-based Bluesocket had been acclaimed for its completely virtualized control plane for managing wireless infrastructure -- thus meaning less money spent by customers on hardware-based LAN controller by customers -- and the modest, but devoted channel community it built around its vWLAN 802.11n software.

Adtran bought the company in August and has preserved its corporate structure as a standalone Adtran business unit, with former Bluesocket President and CEO Mads Lillelund heading that unit and reporting into Schansman.

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"I think it will stimulate VARs in general because for one it's a door-opener for their portfolio -- they can sell switches along with it -- but it also positions us a little differently. It's an enterprise play," Schansman said. "It's the right thing to have with virtualization, and it's also wireless."

Bluesocket isn't the first instance of Adtran making an acquisition to expand its market presence; Adtran bought Objectworld in 2009 to abet its entry into the unified communications space. But Bluesocket helps push SMB-centric Adtran's enterprise business upmarket, said Schansman, because it's those customers, not so much the small businesses, that are wrestling with network infrastructure challenges.

"If I'm SMB, I'm going to have an access point, not lots of access points, and I'm not really going to care much yet about the access speed being five times what I could get with 802.11a/b/g," he said. "But in the enterprise, that's absolutely a must. And what people want to deploy is a ubiquitous network: wired and wireless."

Adtran has onboarded Bluesocket's modest channel community, what Schansman described as "a few handfuls" of partners around the country.

"They had the problem of, there's this little-bitty company up there in Burlington and their technology is cool stuff, but where are they going to be next year?" he said.

For Adtran VARs, it's an inroad to wireless products and a broader portfolio play behind the Adtran solutions they already offer. According to Ted Cole, vice president of channel sales for Adtran's enterprise division, the Bluesocket product set has also piqued the interest of Adtran's MSP partners, who can sell the solution by shipping customers access points (AP) and then managing their wireless infrastructure from afar.

Adtran didn't initially set out to acquire a wireless vendor, Schansman said. But it became clear to the company that upgrading its wireless access point -- the NetVanta 150 -- would take too long and that the dynamics in the wireless LAN business were changing too quickly to wait.

"Today, what people want is a ubiquitous network that has both wired and wireless connectivity and can manage user access, not manage a port on a switch," he said. "It really has changed the way you look at your network if you're in enterprise. We knew we were going to have to do more."