Aruba acquires WLAN management vendor AirWave

Acquisition gives Aruba a foot in the door of Cisco and Motorola customers.

Aruba Networks is buying one of the few multi-vendor wireless LAN management vendors, AirWave Wireless.

Aruba Networks announced today it has acquired a leading wireless LAN management vendor, AirWave Wireless, for $37 million.

The purchase gives Aruba a well-regarded WLAN management application, one of the few that can manage different brands of equipment, and one of even fewer that can manage different types of wireless networks including mesh and WiMAX (compare WLAN management products). 

AirWave began as a wireless application service provider. To manage the multiplicity of brands being deployed, the company began writing its own network management software. It's a complex process, because the settings, configurations and features of Cisco, Motorola/Symbol and other brands had to be mapped to a common object model. Some of the features are unique, with no analogous features in another vendor's WLAN products. AirWave's software can exploit those unique features, even as it administers a common set of features across a multivendor network.

Today, AirWave supports Cisco, Aruba, HP ProCurve, Motorola/Symbol, Avaya, Foundry, Proxim, 3Com, Trapeze, Tropos and many other vendors.

Enterprise WLANs are less uniform than they may at first seem. A company might deploy WLAN switches and thin access points in a headquarters, but chose intelligent access points for retail outlets, for example. That diversity will become more common, with the advent of "disruptive technologies" like 802.11n and WiMAX, says Michael Tennefos, head of strategic marketing for Aruba.

"These technologies mean potentially costly large-scale upgrades to the edges and core of the enterprise net," he says. Instead of a wholesale upgrade, users are likely to prefer a phased migration. If that's the case, he says, they'll need an effective tool to manage what is now a multivendor WLAN.

AirWave's flagship product is AirWave Management Platform (AMP). It offers real-time monitoring and trend reporting on each wireless device and user, and network configuration, all from a single console. Management tasks can be segmented and limited to specific IT groups or individuals, and AirWave provides different classes of management functions, ranging from WLAN network specialists to helpdesk staff.

AirWave will operate as a separate business unit in its former San Mateo headquarters. Its charter, Tennefoss says, will be "to keep doing what it's been doing." That means continuing to develop its platform as a vendor-neutral wireless management framework. Aruba will continue to sell its existing WLAN management application for Aruba-only deployments.

Tennefoss says the acquisition gives Aruba the tools to apply its "unified network" concept across the various wireless topologies and technologies that enterprises are adopting, and blend these more seamlessly with the existing wireline infrastructure. And Aruba now has a foot in the door of Cisco and Motorola customers, where AirWave has been popular.

The deal is expected to be final in March, pending the usual regulatory and other approvals.

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