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Aruba Follows European Trail

Light Reading
LR Mobile News Analysis
Light Reading
11/19/2003

Wireless LAN switch contender Aruba Wireless Networks has become the second industry startup this week to break into the European market, opening a regional headquarters in London and revealing two local customers (see Aruba Switches Into Europe).

The move comes hot on the heels of a similar announcement by rival Airespace Inc. on Monday (see Airespace Cracks Europe). Aruba has inked deals with Scottish building designer Sharkey and French furniture retailer Conforoma, each of which will deploy the startup’s 5000 switch product to enable wireless LAN access throughout its premises.

Newboy Albert Benhamou -- a former ReefEdge Inc. employee and now VP of EMEA at Aruba -- claims the company boasts “over twenty other European customers in the final pilot phase of testing” its switch products. In light of this demand, Benhamou states that a small French office in Paris is also primed for future opening.

It has been a busy few days for the San Jose-based vendor. Today’s efforts coincide with the launch of the company’s latest addition to its switch portfolio -- the 2400 product aimed at medium-sized enterprise customers -- and recent partnership deals with NCR Corp. and Avaya Inc. (NYSE: AV) (see Aruba Unveils 2400 Switch and Aruba Teams With NCR, Avaya).

The vendor is also supplying a wireless LAN network for the Networld+Interop show in Paris this week. Unlike an earlier offering at the Las Vegas event in April -- where access was only available to staff and exhibitors rather than delegate visitors -- the French show will provide coverage throughout the entire conference center (see Aruba Unwires N+I Network). “We are providing 40 access points and are expecting to support a couple of thousand users,” says Keerti Melkote, Aruba co-founder and VP of product management. “Anybody that walks through the doors, really.”

Aruba joins the glut of startups and traditional wired players attempting to tout their own 802.11 switch offerings -- devices that sit in the wiring closet, between the management console and the wireless access points around the office (see Aruba's Switch Pitch). The switch is connected to the access points via Ethernet cabling and handles tasks like deciding how much of the available bandwidth will be allocated to each user and which users should be allowed on the network, as well as implementing security features such as data encryption.

Despite strong competition and analyst belief that the sector will see only one or two startups survive to become independent viable businesses, Melkote remains confident of future success (see WLAN Switch Shakeout Looms?). “We have been around since March so have nine months of knowledge about what exactly customers want. Our product is far more mature from that perspective. We were the first to market with a Layer 3 product. That advantage is critical in a startup.”

Despite the slew of wireless startups on the scene, the Aruba man says that at this stage he belives he has one major rival in this sector. “The real competition is between us and Airespace,” Melkote says [ed. note: They'll always have Paris].

— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung

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