Aruba upgrades ahead of market consolidation

Aruba upgrades ahead of market consolidation

Wireless networking company Aruba has upgraded its software, as part of what may be the last major round of software upgrades before wireless switch vendors disappear.

Aruba OS version 3.1 allows more flexibility to set up groups of users on the wireless LAN, and improves scalability and voice support -- issues the company is keen to demonstrate to underline its strength in the enterprise, before a share offering makes it a public company. It's also likely to be the last major software upgrade before wireless switch vendors are swallowed up in a round of acquisitions by larger companies, that is expected later this year.

The new Aruba OS lets managers set up groups of users, creating "virtual mobile networks" on the same SSID identifier, instead of requiring multiple SSIDs for different parts of the company. This flexibility, analogous to VLANs on the wired network. The update along with a new version of Aruba's Mobility Management System adds the ability to monitor QoS, manage traffic queues for voice, and to display SIP call records, and includes an API for location tracking using AeroScout Wi-Fi tags. It can also send IDS alerts to the Snort open source intrusion prevention system.

Ohio State University is using the new software on a huge wireless LAN with 10,000 access points, covering 1,700 acres and 80,000 students, staff and guests: "In building a network of this scale, we have discovered that prevailing WLAN models for delivering multiple services using multiple logical networks or SSIDs just does not scale," said Bob Corbin, director of telecommunications and networking, Ohio State University Office of Information Technology. "You cannot have one network for data, another for voice, a third for departmental access, and so on, and expect end users to have a seamless mobility experience."

Wireless switches have only a limited future as a major stand-alone item in large networks, and so do the specialist companies that make them. Cisco bought Airespace two years ago, and has integrated its technology into its wired network -- a move other networking vendors are expecting to follow.

The remaining independent wireless switch vendors, Aruba, Trapeze, Colubris and Meru, with one or two newer players like Extricom, are thought to have the rest of this year to make themselves as valuable as possible before being bought, merged and integrated.

Aruba's steps towards this include going public in the process of which it has revealed a US$12 million loss for 2006, on $73 million revenue.

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