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'Switch' CEOs Sound Off

The CEOs of two of the hottest startups in the enterprise wireless LAN market went head-to-head yesterday at the first Light Reading Live investor conference in New York City.

Brett Galloway, who leads Airespace Inc., and Don LeBeau, the newly appointed chief at Aruba Wireless Networks, were questioned about their companies, business models, plans for the future, and much, much, more, by the Big Cheese of the Light Reading publishing empire, Stephen Saunders.

The grilling took place in front of 83 attendees from the financial community, as well as big enterprise customers and representatives from the tech industry.

And just to spice up proceedings there was even an interactive clickometer, whereby WiFi-equipped members of the audience could vote on which CEO was talking up a storm -- or spouting nonsense -- at any given moment in the hour-long showdown.

Here’s some of the highlights:

IPO Dreams

Aruba’s LeBeau is still hot on the prospects of his company going public, claiming: “I think there is a major opportunity for a major public company in this space -- even without there ever being an obvious killer app.” (See Switch Startups Mull IPOs for more on Aruba floating in 2005.)

Airespace’s Galloway appeared to distance himself from previously bullish company statements about the possibility of an IPO in early 2005. “Frankly, that isn’t the business model,” Galloway told the crowd, and said that the firm is working on building itself into a strong business at present.

But both men agreed on the need for startups beavering away in this market to build up strong distribution channels if they are in it for the long haul.

As LeBeau noted, the long-expected shakeout in the wireless LAN switch sector is already underway (see WLAN Switch Shakeout Looms?). Witness the decision by rival AirFlow Networks to announce its pullout of the switch systems business that very day (see AirFlow Switches Gear).

Wider LAN?

Brett and Don (as we like to call 'em) took contrasting positions on how their own companies’ technology portfolios will evolve over time. While both agreed that their firms are not simple hardware vendors but are actually in the business of delivering services -- be that voice, data center applications, or additional security -- over corporate 802.11 networks, Airespace’s Galloway is far more open to the idea of adapting these services to new wireless platforms beyond wireless LAN.

”It’s not enough to be an 802.11 vendor,” quoth Galloway.

To that end, he says Airespace has just joined the WiMax Forum and will work with others to commercialize 802.16a wireless metropolitan area technology. “WiMax represents a significant opportunity for a company like Airespace,” claims Galloway.

Aruba’s LeBeau isn’t so sure, preferring to concentrate on “high-end corporate wireless LAN” -- at least for the time being.

”WiMax doesn’t affect what I get paid this week, this month -- or even this year,” he says.

Switch Off

Still if you really want to unite both CEOs, try calling their product a wireless LAN switch. Turns out that neither man is really comfortable with the category, despite the fact that both companies have happily attached themselves to the hype around this market.

LeBeau wishes he’d been involved at Aruba’s inception to fix the switch tag. “I think I'd redefine it if I could,” he says, offering “wireless server” or “wireless appliance” as possible alternatives [ed. note: not exactly thrilling, either, if you ask us].

“It’s a services platform -- its not a wiring closet technology,” agrees Galloway.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

routerjock 12/5/2012 | 2:02:41 AM
re: 'Switch' CEOs Sound Off So... who did the members vote as spouting nonsense or talking up a storm? Why would you mention it?... or was the clickometer a waste of time?
joset01 12/5/2012 | 2:02:36 AM
re: 'Switch' CEOs Sound Off Rats! That isn't showing the final result! Oh well, for the record, the needle ended up slightly to Airespace's side at the end of the Q&A, but it was a pretty close run thing.

The needle flickered pretty widely twixt one side and the other throughout the session. The largest single swing I saw was when Brett Galloway reminded the crowd that many of the Airespace crowd came from Ricochet Networks -- paused -- and then said: "You can all chuckle now."

That earned him some clicks.

DJ Unstrung

Splat 12/5/2012 | 2:02:01 AM
re: 'Switch' CEOs Sound Off I have a great marketing idea, weGÇÖll ramp sales by calling our WiFi switches, WiFi Appliances and painting them the same color as Cisco switches! Yeah thatGÇÖs the ticket! ThatGÇÖs why I get paid the big CEO bucks!

Give me a freaking break.
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