Aruba Acquires Azalea for Wi-Fi Enterprise Mesh

Enterprise Wi-Fi vendor, Aruba Networks, acquires the technology that powered Wi-Fi for the Beijing Olympics, with an eye toward bringing mesh to the enterprise campus.

By Sean Michael Kerner | Posted May 10, 2010
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Enterprise Wi-Fi vendor Aruba Networks (NASDAQ: ARUN) is expanding its footprint, acquiring Azalea Networks and its wireless mesh technology that could enable Aruba to offer large-scale Wi-Fi networks to sprawling business campuses and elsewhere.

Aruba will pay $27 million in stock and up to $13.5 million in cash adjustments over the next two years for the privately held Azalea. Aruba expects the deal to close in the first quarter of its 2011 fiscal year, ending in November.

With Azalea's mesh technology, Aruba is filing a hole its portfolio by adding capabilities for large-scale outdoor wireless network deployments: The 2008 Beijing Olympic Games used the company's technology to deliver a 600-node Wi-Fi mesh network over a 19-square-mile area. In Aruba's hands, the wireless mesh technology could potentially offer new capabilities for enterprise users with a low-latency, highly resilient fabric for wireless connectivity.

"In a mesh network, signals hop from access point to access point without requiring cabling in between, enabling coverage of large distances," Mike Tennefoss, head of strategic marketing for Aruba, told InternetNews.com. "Azalea has developed a peer-to-peer mesh network system in which any access point can communicate with any other access point without going through a gateway or a controller."

Tennefoss said that the Azalea system is built with the need of latency-sensitive applications in mind, such as voice and video. The system is also capable of delivering fast roaming to end users as well, enabling wireless video connectivity to, say, a moving vehicle traveling at speeds of up to 60 miles per hour, according to Tennefoss.

He also noted that at the close of the purchase, the plan is for the Azalea assets to be rebranded under Aruba's name. Azalea technologies will also be integrated into the Aruba product lineup as well. Tennefoss added that the Aruba Airwave management solution will also be configured to work with Azalea's mesh equipment.

"I think it will take a longer time to take some of the Azalea technology and incorporate it into Aruba wireless LAN and integrate Aruba technology into Azalea, but all that planning is underway," Tennefoss said.

Aruba expects that the P2P mesh approach used by Azalea could potentially benefit the rest of its wireless LAN portfolio.

"Azalea does peer-to-peer networking and the algorithms that they use for outdoor mesh could also be applicable to very noisy indoor requirements," Tennefoss said. "So I expect that integration to start as soon as we close the deal, where some of the unique Azalea technology is integrated into mainstream Aruba products."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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