Juniper Buys Trapeze: Unified Networking’s Increasing Importance

The rumors are true – and unified networking continues to increase in importance. Don’t count the WLAN guys not selling switches and routers out yet, though.

I must say that I found the news that Juniper is buying Trapeze to be surprising, despite the fact that rumors had been flying quite literary for months. I usually don't comment on rumors, and didn't in this case. But in retrospect, this deal does make sense. WLANs are a huge growth opportunity, and even a networking vendor with a carrier-centric product line can benefit from a strong presence in the most important access technology today - for both enterprises and, as I've written before, carriers. Cellular offload is a key theme for the next decade, and Juniper could really profit here, in addition to bolstering its position against Cisco and HP.

But more importantly for the near term, anyway, is the continuing emphasis on unified networking - the boundaries between wired and wireless disappearing. Now, this is what I thought was at work when Belden bought Trapeze to begin with. Belden has undoubtedly re-thought their overall corporate strategy over the past year, as so many corporations have, and they obviously have a better use for the money they invested in Trapeze, plus a bit of a profit on the initial investment. I don't know if the deal overall was profitable for them, but I had assumed that moving WLAN gear through Belden's channels would be a huge win. Perhaps the recession produced, um, a different set of opportunities.

I continue to expect, regardless, that unified networking will be a major theme, and Juniper is now on its way to being a major player in this space. Some have assumed that this turn of events damages WLAN leaders who don't have a wired product line, most notably Aruba and Meru. But such isn't necessarily the case; networking has been defined by mix-and-match interoperability for a very long time and that's not going to change. The real opportunity, I continue to argue, is unified management, and ideally vendor-independent unified management. And guess what? Aruba has AirWave, and Meru has a deal with SolarWinds. Disadvantage? Well, not really. We're still in the early days of unified networking, and no firm has the lead here today.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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