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New markets will be opened up to Aruba VARs following the vendor’s acquisition of AirWave Technologies, which the firm said will also allow it to take on Cisco in the wireless networking space.

AirWave, a multi-vendor wireless management manufacturer, provides network management tools that support hardware from 18 wireless companies, including Cisco, Nortel, Aruba and Motorola/Symbol, said Michael Tennefoss, director of strategic marketing at Aruba.

VARs therefore will be able to offer software and management services to customers no matter how their network is branded, Tenefoss added. It will also open up markets for channel partners trying to get a foothold into customers upgrading legacy 802.11 a/b/g networks.

With wireless networking becoming more prevalent, there is a natural trend toward network heterogeneity, and making it easier to manage and secure those heterogeneous networks can accelerate adoption of newer technologies, according to Greg Murphy, chief operating officer of AirWave. This encourages more corporations to upgrade legacy networks to faster wireless standards, he added.

“It’s much more cost-efficient to upgrade rather than ripping out and completely replacing a wireless network that a company has spent millions of dollars on,” he said. Being able to manage legacy networks alongside cutting-edge technology is the future of wireless, Murphy claimed.

Paul Black, president of Comm Solutions, a platinum Aruba partner, said, “Many clients have investments in older technology wireless systems and they are reluctant to just throw all of it away to deploy a new solution.”

Black said the AirWave acquisition by Aruba will let him offer his clients one platform to manage both the legacy infrastructure and new technology. The Airwave technology makes it more economical for clients to phase in new wireless technology and still benefit from legacy investments, Black said.

Multi-vendor networks are becoming the norm as customers upgrade to the faster 802.11n wireless standard and even to WiMax, said Tennefoss. “We’re providing an elegant way to migrate customers to newer technology without having to get them locked into proprietary vendors, such as Cisco,” Tennefoss said.

Cisco is the No. 1 vendor in the wireless space and the majority of current wireless network installations are based on Cisco technology, Tennefoss said. For channel partners, being able to return to current customers who have a proprietary technology and sell into a “Cisco-only” environment is a great opportunity, he said.

“Our VARs can go back to legacy accounts and offer better tools for security, intrusion detection and remote access without changing the customer’s hardware,” Tennefoss said.

Currently, AirWave has about 40 channel partners, and Murphy said that Aruba is committing resources to sustaining and growing that number, though he did not mention specific growth targets. “The Aruba merger means we can get our products into more users’ hands than we could with our current channel organization,” he said.

The acquisition is scheduled to close in early March and is reported to be $37 million in cash and stocks. Murphy said the technology will continue to be branded as AirWave’s own and the company will operate as a separate business unit within Aruba.