Cisco's Unified Access plan challenged

Brocade and Aruba allie for converged wired/wireless campus alternative

Cisco's Unified Access campus networking strategy is about to get some revived competition. Brocade and Aruba Networks are collaborating to deliver their own unified campus network to support wired/wireless integration and SDN, and eliminate Cisco "lock-in."

The two companies have a three-year, nonexclusive arrangement to jointly develop and market integrated wired/WLAN products across industries, including the U.S. federal government. The deal effectively ends, after four years, a five-year OEM relationship Brocade had with Motorola for WLAN gear.

[ANALYSIS: Brocade brings fabrics to campus networks]

Brocade said it will transition customers away from the Motorola products towards the Aruba gear.

"We will continue to support the installed base and help them migrate," said Ken Cheng, Brocade CTO and vice president of corporate development and emerging business. "Some will stay with Motorola and we will support them, but it's not going to hold back our partnership with Aruba."

That partnership centers around providing an alternative to Cisco's Unified Access wired/wireless portfolio, which will be expanded next week with the introduction of the Catalyst 3650 switch. The Catalyst 3650 features Cisco's new Unified Access Data Plane (UADP) ASIC, and integrated wireless controller, and support for up to 25 access points and 1,000 wireless clients.

Early this year, Cisco rolled out the UADP-based Catalyst 3850, which supports 50 access points and 2,000 wireless clients.

Brocade and Aruba claim Cisco's approach locks campus customers in to the vendor, and ends up costing them more in dollars and operational complexity. The two plan to merge their respective HyperEdge and MOVE architectures to provide a secure, mobility-centric campus network with context-based access and policy management.

Brocade and Aruba also plan to tackle SDN campus initiatives for network virtualization in an effort to make them operationally more efficient. This work involves automating IT operations through "zero-touch" provisioning; improving the performance of peer-to-peer applications like Microsoft Lync and Apple AirPlay; and reducing acquisition costs compared to those charged by Cisco.

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