Aruba Networks and Airwave Wireless are announcing July 17 that the companies will combine the capabilities of Arubas new wireless management products and the Airwave Wireless Management Suite.
According to a statement by the companies, this will allow users to create a centrally managed wireless network, but still use their existing wireless infrastructure.
Other centrally managed wireless solutions either require replacing old access points with new "thin" APs, or they require software upgrades on the existing hardware.
"Were taking about five million orphaned access points and giving them hope," said Gary Singh, senior director of marketing for Aruba Networks. "Now they can be moved up into a centralized switched architecture."
Singh said that the solution offered by Aruba and Airwave is vendor independent. While it will support Arubas access points, it doesnt require them.
Singh added that the company has found that users badly want a migration path for their old access points, regardless of the type.
"Every vendor has moved into centralized switched access points," Singh explained. "The older units have no road map and are basically stranded."
Singh said that while some companies, such as Cisco, offer conversion of their old access points, this isnt always the best way for some companies. "It doesnt offer full functionality and they can be locked into their vendors approach," he said.
Singh said that the Aruba hardware uses the Aruba Access Controller which can then support central management, QOS (quality of service) for voice traffic and air monitors for intrusion detection. It also offers security features such as a firewall and policy-based segmentation.
"The management software sits on top of the existing infrastructure," said Greg Murphy, chief operating officer for Airwave Wireless. Murphy added that this means customers dont have to replace their legacy infrastructure.
"We have a lot of customers who have built large wireless networks, and theyre adding thin AP architecture," Murphy said.
"A huge amount of infrastructure is already in place. So how do you switch over to another platform when you have hundreds of access points in place? You dont want to rip them all out and replace them."
With the new solution, Murphy said, "You dont have to replace legacy infrastructure."
The problem of updating legacy infrastructure can be a significant problem to some users, said Paul DeBeasi, a senior analyst for The Burton Group, based in Midvale, Utah.
"When you update your access point, you lose all your code, and your historical information," DeBeasi said. "If you use Airwave, you dont lose this."
However, DeBeasi noted that customers will get most of the benefit by just using the Airwave product.
"They have convinced me that the Airwave solution without Aruba gives customers a choice of which wireless vendor they want to move forward with," he said.
"Because theyre a multivendor access solution, the airwave solution now gives an administrator who might be unhappy with Cisco a place to go."
But DeBeasi said he isnt so sure that the solution necessarily requires Aruba.
"What they have not convinced me of yet is that by buying Aruba you necessarily have a better solution than Cisco," he said. "They have to go with customers that dont care about Ciscos direction."
DeBeasi emphasized that the ability to use legacy APs can be significant. "I know companies that have 500 old access points, and youre certainly not going to throw those away overnight," he said.
But he also said that beyond those companies with a lot of legacy access points, and companies that for whatever reason choose not to go with Cisco, he doesnt see much of a market. "In terms of really making a big impact on the market, this is really not going to do that," he said.
DeBeasi also noted that while Aruba and Airwave are stressing the fact that customers wont have to worry about losing important historical data on their access points if they upgrade the software, he isnt sure that will really matter to customers.
"I dont know how big a deal throwing away the historical information is. Not a single person has actually talked to me about that," he said.
DeBeasi said that what managers really care about is making sure their traffic runs as its supposed to, and that they can handle voice and security.