Cisco-Airespace Deal Shuffles Wireless Deck

Former OEM partners Alcatel and Nortel are seeking out relationships with other Wi-Fi vendors in the wake of Airespace's purchase by Cisco.

With Cisco Systems Inc.s acquisition of Airespace Inc. completed, Airespaces former OEM partners are scrambling to join forces with other Wi-Fi vendors.

Cisco rivals Alcatel S.A. and Nortel Networks Ltd. each announced new WLAN (wireless LAN) partnerships last week to replace respective deals with Airespace.

This time, however, both companies said they want the partnerships to go beyond relabeling of products.

Alcatels new partnership with Aruba Wireless Networks Inc. includes an OEM agreement wherein Alcatel will resell rebranded Aruba switches and access points as well as a cross-licensing pact encompassing technology from both vendors.

The deal calls for co-development of voice-over-Wi-Fi products meant to ensure quality of service for Alcatels wireless handsets, said officials at Aruba, in Sunnyvale, Calif.

"Wireless switching technology makes voice much more stable and scalable over wireless," said Brad Noblet, director of technical services at Dartmouth College, in Hanover, N.H., which uses Aruba WLAN gear.

That the Alcatel deal goes beyond an OEM agreement justifies the partnership, said Aruba CEO Don LeBeau, who has publicly disparaged OEM partnerships in the past. Alcatels relationship with Airespace was primarily a reseller agreement, as was Nortels.

"It extends service and support beyond just moving boxes," LeBeau said. "Its the integration of other technologies thats of greatest appeal."

/zimages/2/28571.gifRead more here about the Aruba-Alcatel OEM and development partnership.

Meanwhile, Nortel plans to sell Nortel-branded versions of Trapeze Networks Inc.s WLAN switches and complementary access points. The first fruits of the OEM agreement are the Nortel WLAN 2300 Series, which includes the Nortel WLAN Access Point 2330, the 2300 family of security switches and Nortel WLAN Management System software. Based on Trapeze products, they will be available in the next few months, said Nortel officials in Brampton, Ontario.

As with the Aruba-Alcatel deal, Nortels agreement with Trapeze calls for the co-development of voice-focused products and a cross-licensing agreement.

/zimages/2/28571.gifTo read more about Nortels partnership with Trapeze, click here.

"A lot of [WLAN] technology has gone into chip sets and become more and more commodity," said Atul Bhatnagar, vice president of enterprise data networks at Nortel. "The next generation is about seamless integration, security and scaling. Thats where we are going."

Despite persistent rumors that Nortel is looking to acquire Trapeze, Trapeze officials said the company plans to continue down the partnership path.

"We have more OEM licensing agreements in the pipe," said Jim Vogt, president and CEO of Trapeze, in Pleasanton, Calif. "Our value is not just Nortel. Well [add] four or five deals this year."

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick here to read more about Ciscos acquisition of Airespace.

Customers have had to scramble as well.

"We talked with Airespace, we talked with Cisco and we talked with Nortel," said Rich Kubica, managing director of infrastructure at Hartford Hospital, in Hartford, Conn., who already had installed three rebranded Airespace switches when he learned of the Cisco acquisition. "We could have gone with Cisco, but I dont know what Ciscos going to do with Airespace. Cisco was in a position where they couldnt talk about it. Nortel worked so well with us when we ran into the issue."

"We went into a testing program with [Nortel], and were slated to roll out the Nortel/ Trapeze solution," Kubica said.

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