Airespace Takes Off
The NEC deal is seen by analysts as a crucial move for San Jose, Calif.-based Airespace (formerly known as Blackstorm Networks), which will have to make a name for itself against established enterprise networking players and vociferous startups in an already overcrowded market (see Extreme Hatches Switch Surprise, Nortel Preps 'Security Switch' and WLAN Switch Shakeout Looms?).
NEC will sell rebadged versions of Airespace switches to its customer base worldwide. The firms also plan to collaborate on developing voice-over-IP enterprise telephony products based on 802.11 technology.
Alan Cohen, VP of marketing and product management at Airespace, says the company is working with 10 customers. Cohen -- who, as elderly readers may remember, was once the top marketer at Tahoe Networks -- can even name two of them. They are the Duke University Medical Center and the school of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences at Berkeley.
IDC's Abner Germanow reckons that it may have been a smart move by Airespace to hold off on a big product launch before they had a partnership deal and customers in place. "Whenever you have other people outside of your own company buying into your product that's a positive thing," he notes.
The Airespace offering is similar in scope and concept to the product line announced by rival Aruba Networks Inc. back in January (see Aruba's Switch Pitch). Airespace has a 12-port switch and a 24-port switch that can be connected to its own "lightweight" access points -- which have most of their functionality stripped out -- or mated with standard boxes. The software supplied with this system can help network administrators roll out networks and handle management and security functions. When the system is used with the Airespace access points, administrators can control the strength of the radio signal from each access point, making it easier for administrators to boost coverage in areas where it is required.
Germanow expects still more companies to enter this market over the course of the year. "Basically, the class of access points that are on the market today don't meet the performance requirements of modern enterprise networking," he says, adding that this has led to an increasing number of startups and incumbent networking players developing systems that make it simple to roll out and manage networks.
The winner, Germanow says, will be the company that makes it bone-simple for IT administrators to roll out wireless networks. "It's just too early to tell if any of them have managed it."
— Dan Jones, Senior Editor, Unstrung