Alcatel Goes to Aruba

By Eric Griffith

March 22, 2005

In the wake of the Cisco/Airespace buyout, some OEMs were left high and dry. Alcatel, however, has wasted little time in finding a new source for enterprise Wi-Fi.

In the wake of the much-publicized Cisco/Airespace buyout, some original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) were left high and dry. Firms like Nortel, NEC and Alcatel were using equipment from Airespace as their own, giving established network players an instant route to enterprise Wi-Fi. The move to Cisco by Airespace put the kibosh on most of those relationships.

Paris-based Alcatel has wasted little time in finding a new source for WLAN switching. This week, Aruba Networks of Sunnyvale, Calif., is announcing that the two companies have signed a deal that will make any and all Aruba equipment available soon under the Alcatel name. Aruba technology will also become part of Alcatel's CrystalSec security framework.

Keerti Melkote, Aruba's co-founder and vice president of product marketing, says that while the initial deal will cover everything Aruba makes, from its centralized switches to its GridPoint architecture, "the focus is more than plain old Wi-Fi. [Alcatel] wants a solution for voice over Wi-Fi," as well as extended security and mobility for end users.

The two companies will work together on future developments for VoWi-Fi that will benefit both of their systems.

When asked if Aruba might be heading toward a buyout, whether by Alcatel or others, Melkote vehemently says no. "Our strategy is to be a strong independent company," he says. "Alcatel gives us a good channel to market for Europe and parts of Asia, and a decent channel in the United States. But in the U.S., we want to be a strong, independent brand."

Keeping Aruba separate also gives the smaller startup more room to innovate, he adds.

While the pact with Alcatel is not exclusive, at this time it's the only OEM deal on Aruba's radar—in fact, Melkote says Aruba has passed on the chance to work with Nortel at this time. Such a move would have put Nortel OEM equipment into competition with Aruba's own in the States.

This leaves big networking competitors like Nortel, NEC and others with the option of working with other switch startups such as Trapeze Networks or Meru Networks— or going back to the drawing board to develop things on their own.

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