The Faces of Wi-Fi

By Carmen Nobel  |  Posted 2004-11-15 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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They are companies as different as their leaders. But as Aruba Wireless Networks and Airespace focus on common competitors such as Cisco, they are taking tricks out of each other's playbooks.

They are companies as different as their leaders.

At Aruba Wireless Networks, the watchwords have been sales and channel. Under the direction of CEO Don LeBeau, a former Cisco Systems Inc. sales vice president with a penchant for catchphrases and seal-the-deal handshakes, Aruba has used its market savvy to capture large customers such as Amazon.com Inc., eBay Inc., AT&T Corp. and Google Inc.

For Airespace Inc. CEO Brett Galloway, a former engineer, the focus has long been technology, specifically security, helping to win over users in the financial sector.

Now, as each company focuses on common competitors such as Cisco, their methods are necessarily expanding along with their product lines and sales forces. Airespace is bolstering its sales channels, and Aruba is trying out a new technology strategy.

Aruba, of Sunnyvale, Calif., this week will introduce several new products that extend the company's wireless grid architecture strategy to protect customers against interior security threats on their wired and wireless networks.

"The wired network was never meant to support mobility," LeBeau said, describing a scenario in which a company employee hooks up to an unsecured wireless hot spot while on the road, then comes to the office and plugs his laptop into an Ethernet port. If the laptop is still trying to hook up to a wireless hot spot, it might pose a security threat.

"Because wireless exists, it destroys the perimeter," LeBeau said. "Suddenly, your enterprise ports are in the parking lot."

Aruba's wireless grid architecture, which the company launched in August, consists of centrally controlled, inexpensive, densely deployed access points that sit in walls or on the floor, rather than in the ceiling. The new products, due to customers early next year, include a centralized policy engine and a controller, which enforce security policies for wired and wireless networks. The Aruba 6100 Grid Controller supports 8G bps of unencrypted or 7.2G bps of encrypted traffic. New Grid Control System software enables the controllers to be clustered and to support up to 256G bps, officials said.

And a new wired grid point, the Aruba 2E, is designed to secure a customer's wired Ethernet ports. It uses GRE (Generic Routing Encapsulation) tunneling to move data to the grid controller, where policies can be enforced. Officials said the 2E will cost about $150 per port. Pricing for the other products will be announced upon availability.

Next Page: Airespace Branches Out

Airespace, of San Jose, Calif., meanwhile, is looking to enter new markets, such as mesh networking, within the next few months, according to company officials. More immediately, the company is expanding its sales channels by partnering with major systems integrators. The company signed a deal with IBM Global Services earlier this fall, and more agreements are forthcoming, according to company officials.

"We get a significant lift from partners," said Galloway. "Because our product is easier to manage than the incumbents', it makes for a better business case."

For WLAN (wireless LAN) switch companies, the most prevalent competition is Cisco, despite its acknowledged reputation for complicated management tools and slow rollouts for new hardware.

"We're 20 times their size in the wireless market," said Charlie Giancarlo, chief technology officer at Cisco, also in San Jose, who said Cisco is on track to surpass $1 billion in WLAN hardware sales. "In many cases, we won't be first to market. We have to put a large amount of investment in anything we take to market because, unlike the startups, we're not taking a product to one customer but to hundreds."

Many customers are willing to wait.

Read more here about Cisco's advances in WLAN security.

"There are customers whose incumbent relationships can't be turned," said Airespace's Galloway. "I have heartburn creating new vendor relationships, particularly in the wake of the bubble."

For instance, Qualcomm Inc. plans to use Cisco gear in its next upgrade because of Cisco's long-standing reputation as a switch and router company.

"We always continue to look at Cisco because there's so much there," said Norm Fjeldheim, CIO of Qualcomm, in San Diego. "My impression is that most of [the WLAN startups] won't be around that long because their technology will be subsumed. Cisco's a lot like Microsoft."

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