Juniper, Ruckus join hands with an eye on mobile growth

The alliance between Juniper Networks and Ruckus Wireless announced on Tuesday underscores the importance of Wi-Fi in enterprises, where employees increasingly work and access cloud applications on mobile devices.

Juniper and Ruckus say they’re joining forces to build integrated wired and wireless infrastructures while keeping their technologies open and standards-based. The companies focused on enterprises in announcing the partnership, but they will also integrate technologies for service-provider networks, Ruckus Vice President of Corporate Marketing David Callisch said.

As Wi-Fi gets faster and more workers use laptops and other portable devices, more enterprises see wireless as a real alternative to traditional ethernet LANs, said Gartner analyst Tim Zimmerman. Some networks based on IEEE 802.11ac theoretically can deliver more speed than Gigabit ethernet, and the second wave of that technology now emerging will offer more than 6Gbps on the top end.

“We’re at a point where we’re exceeding the wired capability at the edge of the network,” so Wi-Fi is now a better investment for some enterprises, depending on how their employees work, Zimmerman said. Gartner expects the global enterprise WLAN market to grow from US$5.3 billion this year to $7.8 billion in 2019.

Through the alliance, the companies plan to integrate both hardware and software products into complete networks. Among other things, they will bring together Juniper’s EX Series ethernet Switches with Ruckus’ ZoneFlex access points and SmartZone management platform. The idea is for Juniper’s gear to form the wired backbone behind Ruckus’ wireless gear.

That won’t be enough for the companies to take enterprises by storm against formidable competitors such as Cisco Systems and Hewlett-Packard, each of which has extensive wired and wireless offerings under one roof, Zimmerman said. But the alliance could help Juniper and Ruckus hold onto some customers who are shopping for upgrade options, he said.

Juniper got into the wireless LAN business in 2010 by acquiring Trapeze Networks, and last year it expanded its Wi-Fi efforts by forming a partnership with Aruba Networks. Juniper rival HP bought Aruba earlier this year.

The alliance will probably pay bigger dividends in the service-provider market, where both companies have their greatest strengths, Zimmerman said. Juniper has its roots in service-provider routing and Ruckus is one of the biggest suppliers of wireless LANs to carriers.

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