Aruba acquires multi-vendor network management startup AirWave for $37M

Michelle Donegan

January 9, 2008

3 Min Read
Aruba Snaps Up AirWave

Wireless LAN vendor Aruba Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: ARUN) has gained multi-vendor network management capabilities with the acquisition of AirWave Wireless Inc. for $37 million in cash and shares. (See Aruba Swallows Airwave.)

Aruba hopes the acquisition will help it gain market share, but said it snapped up the network management startup because its big customers are clamoring for cross-vendor management capabilities.

AirWave's software allows enterprises to manage different wireless networks, including WiFi, mesh, and WiMax, and equipment from a dozen different wireless vendors. (See One Console, Many Networks, AirWave Gets French WiFi, and WLAN Love-Fest.)

Aruba president and CEO Dominic Orr said in a conference call today that AirWave will be a "key differentiator" in the large enterprise market. This acquisition will "accelerate the adoption of Aruba technology while staking a claim on multi-vendor management," he added. (See Aruba Plots $80M IPO, Aruba's IPO Fillip, Product Roundup: WiFi Strikes Back, and Aruba Buys Wireless Security Biz.)

The ability to manage multiple networks through one system is increasingly important for large enterprises, particularly as 802.11n emerges on the Wireless LAN scene. More companies will find themselves needing to support new and legacy equipment at the same time. (See Cisco Goes 802.11n.)

AirWave's network management platform manages products from Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Aruba, Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), Avaya Inc. , Proxim Wireless Corp. , 3Com Corp. (Nasdaq: COMS), Trapeze Networks Inc. , and Tropos Networks Inc. .

AirWave, which has more than 400 customers, such as MIT, Yale, and Denver International Airport, also has some service provider customers. Orr would not name the service provider customers, but said they accounted for less than 25 percent of the customer base.

Later this year, Aruba plans to introduce a new management product that merges features from its own network management system with AirWave's. But Aruba will also continue to sell its management system, which manages only Aruba products, for customers that are only interested in a single-vendor solution.

"The ability to now offer multi-vendor management capability should help increase Aruba's addressable market and enable Aruba to continue to gain share in a high-growth market," said Lehman Brothers analyst Inder Singh in a research note.

Aruba and AirWave are not strangers, though. In July 2006, the companies formed a partnership to help enterprises integrate and manage legacy Wireless LAN access points and new equipment from Aruba. (See Airwave & Aruba Look to Legacy.)

Orr insisted that the reason to buy AirWave was that customers have been asking for these network management capabilities. "This acquisition is driven almost exclusively by the voices of our customers. We have listened and we have responded," he said.

But Aruba's main distributor in the U.K., React Technologies, has not heard even a whisper of this demand.

"We haven't seen any desire for [multi-vendor management] in the U.K.... It must be a U.S. thing," says Jess Thompson-Hughes, managing director of React Technologies. "For Aruba, the really big corporate accounts are all American-based."

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Unstrung

About the Author(s)

Michelle Donegan

Michelle Donegan is an independent technology writer who has covered the communications industry for the last 20 years on both sides of the Pond. Her career began in Chicago in 1993 when Telephony magazine launched an international title, aptly named Global Telephony. Since then, she has upped sticks (as they say) to the UK and has written for various publications including Communications Week International, Total Telecom and, most recently, Light Reading.  

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