Hewlett-Packard’s ProCurve networking division is cautiously optimistic that Aruba Networks will maintain the heterogeneous nature of the technology for managing mixed fast and thin access point environments from different vendors it got by buying AirWave Wireless last month.
I’ve met with the CEO of Aruba in the week and reinforced our desire to keep AirWave multi-vendor. We’d like to continue to have them as a strategic partner, said John McHugh, VP and worldwide general manager at Roseville, California-based ProCurve. I received assurances that they will indeed keep them separate, and I’m cautiously optimistic.
In this context he said Aruba CEO Dominic Orr is himself an HP alumnus, having played a significant role in the team behind the OpenView network management suite, where he faced the same challenge of needing to maintain a multi-vendor platform stance and remain ‘firewalled’ away from the rest of HP to do so, so he has the genetics and the experience.
When Aruba bought AirWave in January, Computer Business Review wondered what impact it would have on AirWave’s other partners in the WLAN infrastructure market.
AirWave’s technology enables the collection of performance information to carry out diagnostics, and also a degree of management, on fat APs, which are autonomous entities not designed for external control. When deployed along with an overlay network of thin APs and a central controller or dedicated WLAN switch, it enables co-existence with a pre-existing environment of fat APs.
That in turn means companies can stagger their deployment of overlay technology and sweat their fat AP assets, migrating over time to an all-thin, centrally controlled architecture, rather than ripping and replacing all at one go. We found them to be valuable when a customer has bought a wireless solution from a competitor and doesn’t want to throw it out completely to deploy our technology, said McHugh.
Now, the market reality is that the lion’s share of fat APs installed in enterprise are Aironet devices from Cisco. AirWave’s business model in its days as an independent vendor, therefore, was to partner with all the challengers to Cisco in the centrally controlled/switched camp, enabling them to preach gradual migration from Aironet to their infrastructure.
That included Aruba itself, but also HP ProCurve, Trapeze Networks, Colubris Networks, and Proxim Wireless. How would those other vendors feel about their partner becoming an integral part of Aruba, with which they compete? Equally, AirWave was also a partner of AirMagnet, whose software offerings include a wireless intrusion detection and prevention (WIDS/WIPS) capability, which might have competitive issues with Aruba since it acquired the WIDS/WIPS business of Network Chemistry last year.
While McHugh voices a measured confidence in AirWave’s continued heterogeneity, the other vendors’ positions varied considerably. At AirMagnet, VP of marketing Chris Roeckl said the change in ownership at AirWave is not competitive and so doesn’t affect us. Our relationship with Aruba, which was announced in mid-2007, is about performance monitoring and troubleshooting, not security, where they have the Network Chemistry technology.
In other words, the AirMagnet product Enterprise Analyzer for Aruba is not a WIDS/WIPS product, so there are no competitive issues involved, and the AirMagnet/AirWave partnership can continue uninterrupted.
At Proxim, its VP of international strategic sales Anthony Fulgoni, said simply: Our partnership with AirWave remains in effect and we anticipate that it will remain so.
The background to his comment is that Proxim has repositioned in recent years, moving away from a pure-play enterprise WLAN offering into a broader one including wireless mesh, WiMAX, and wireless backhaul. It still has a Mobile Enterprise as one of its product sets, but it is focusing on selling as much or more to service providers with a wider wireless remit, and is less a direct competitor to Aruba than it was in the past.
For Colubris, its director of strategic marketing Carl Blume, said: First off, Aruba is over three years late to the party. Colubris purchased the AirWave product, including source code, in 2004 and have been enhancing it as out own independent product ever since. He also pointed out: we paid a lot less for the product than Aruba [where the price tag was $37m].
Blume said Colubris ended its relationship with AirWave in the first quarter of 2006 and therefore has no dependencies on the AirWave organization. As for how the product has developed, he said: over the past three years, Colubris has taken a very different path with the AirWave product than what Aruba has planned.
Colubris took the product specific to its technology almost from the outset. The Colubris Network Management System is based on Airwave technology, but has evolved into a strong platform dedicated to managing large Colubris WLANs, he said. We have discarded the multi-vendor management features because we quickly learned how difficult and costly it is to keep up with changes to third-party management interfaces. In addition, the Airwave product wasn’t compatible with Colubris’ channels-based strategy for the enterprise market.
He ended with a comment on heterogeneity and a question about Aruba’s roadmap. Third-party WLAN management is very complex, he said. It requires heavy R&D investment and a direct sales and support model in order to successfully sell and deploy it. Does the Airwave acquisition mean Aruba will continue to bypass the reseller channel and sell its products directly?
Meanwhile, Trapeze’s VP of product marketing David Cohen began with the generic comment that when you acquire a heterogeneous technology, it changes its dynamic and the long-term prospects.
Regarding AirWave specifically, Cohen said: we worked with them in the spring/summer 2007 timeframe for migration from Aironet to us, because they were independent and heterogeneous. We’re not dropping anything now, because our customers are using it, but long-term, the acquisition changes the dynamic.
Aruba IPO’d and got a lot of cash, and they’ve traditionally been weak in network management compared to us with out RingMaster platform, which we’ve been developing since 2002, he said. We support a limited number of third-party APs without AirWave, just with RingMaster [a management platform specifically for Trapeze] and our SmartMobile technology.
On the other vendors’ APs it supports with its own management platform, he said, we provide a comparable level of support, which means some monitoring and limit configuration capabilities.
McHugh said the ProCurve Mobile Manager software, which is similarly a platform specifically for managing the company’s own WLAN infrastructure, is also effective at managing multi-vendor environments. Iit can do a pretty good job if AirWave gets too highly polluted.
Computer Business Review also wondered whether, apart from developing an AirWave-like capability internally as Colubris has done, disgruntled AirWave partners might not be able to find other independent ISVs with which to replace it. McHugh said there are other games in town, though they’re not as close to the city center, meaning they are not offering as developed an offering as the AirWave Management Platform today.
McHugh’s carefully chosen adverb, cautiously, suggests there is as much of a warning as there is hope in his comments about ProCurve’s ongoing relationship with AirWave.
The other AirWave partners’ positions appear to vary depending on how directly they are in competition with Aruba. Trapeze made up the third member of the triumvirate that pioneered WLAN switching for the enterprise market (the other was Airespace that was acquired by Cisco), so it will clearly be moving to address the problem of working with a division of Aruba.
Colubris feels it is unaffected, having moved on from the Airwave relationship already and offering its own (Colubris-specific) product these days. It also takes the opportunity to gloat at how much Aruba paid for the same technology.
Proxim is less of a competitor to Aruba than it was, and AirMagnet is working with Aruba anyway in other areas.